The highly competitive world of business can be dog-eat-dog, but a code of ethics must be instilled and followed to build trust and credibility with customers. Recently, students in Dr. Roger Ritvo’s Business Ethics course applied their classroom knowledge of ethics to the real world, furthering their education in a meaningful way while helping the local library system.
In September, Business Ethics students Taylor Russell, Claudia Smith, Andrea Manzie, Sandra Pettus and Andrew Slaton presented a code of ethics and a statement of values to Juanita Owes, Director of the Montgomery City-County Public Library. The code is based on the letters in the word library, making the word an acronym:
- Loyalty – to the surrounding community and to each other
- Integrity – to broaden public confidence with the highest sense of honesty
- Be Accessible – to all community cultures
- Reliability – to provide a broad range of information to the public
- Accountability – to be accountable not only to others, but also to ourselves
- Resourcefulness – to carry out our responsibilities as professionals, we will go out of our way for the public convenience
- Yielding – to accept the obligation to be flexible in a way that will serve the public interest, honor the public trust, and show commitment to professionalism
Each semester, Ritvo’s students develop a code for a local business in an effort to apply the information and knowledge from the course to real-life situations. Ritvo said if ethical principals are not applied consistently, numerous problems could arise, like fraudulent accounting practices or putting profits ahead of safety – think Enron and BP.
Russell said he learned quite a lot from completing this project.
“I learned about how much they use the honor system and how integrity is very important to how they operate,” Russell said. “It was interesting to see how what we've learned in this class can be applied to real-life instances. I felt that it culminated everything we have learned in this class and showed us just how important business ethics can be in operating and managing a business.”
Smith agreed. “Being able to apply my class work to real life means gaining a better understanding of the concepts and the relevance of the studied material and how it applies to real life situations,” she said.
From a $1 subscription membership to a bookmobile service just after World War II to a million-dollar main branch and merged city-county system, the Montgomery City-County Public Library has been in operation for 114 years. The system houses a collection of more than 600,000 volumes and employs 73 workers. The mission of the system is to “make readily available to all residents of Montgomery County access to materials, information, and services to meet their personal, educational, cultural, technological, and occupational needs.”
After completing a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis of the library system, the business ethics students created the code of ethics to help library employees be more accountable and improve customer service.
“After taking this class, I now understand that being ethical is always doing the right thing – even if nobody is watching,” Pettus said.