Last term for our reference class at library school, we had to do an unobtrusive reference interview. I knew exactly the parameters of this because I'd had to do one at library tech college too. They are stupid. Basically, you go to a library and anonymously ask a questions, and then write a really long paper critiquing the entire transaction. The whole thing felt like one big fat lie. Which it is. It's lying and spying and, in my opinion, unethical. I'm sure the college and university somehow managed to get the assignment past the ethics board, but that doesn't make it morally right.
Academic Librarian has a very interesting series of blog posts about this very same issue, from the librarian's perspective:
- part 1: Attention, Time-Wasters
- part 2: The Ethics of Fake Reference
- part 3: Alternatives to Deception
- part 4: Still They Persist
I really want to forward those posts to all my classmates, and the powers-that-be at my library school. I'm just not sure I'm brave enough though...