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MLA Statement of Appropriate Conduct

Approved by the MLA Board of Directors - July 6, 2020

This statement applies to all Medical Library Association (MLA)–sponsored and officially recognized professional and educational activities, including, but not limited to, conferences, meetings, workshops, online forums, social media, continuing education, and all means of communication between members and nonmembers relating to MLA activities.

It applies to all MLA members, nonmembers, invited guests, speakers, moderators, instructors, exhibitors, staff, and all others who participate in an MLA activity or event.

1. Values and Beliefs

Believing that diversity, equity, and inclusion are the threads that strengthen the fabric of our association, MLA seeks to ensure that the following core values and professional behaviors are entwined throughout all its programs and services:

  • an open, inclusive, and collaborative environment within the association in all its activities and events, and outside the profession;
  • diversity, equity, and inclusion in professional practice, leadership of health sciences libraries, and information professionals;
  • advancement and support of accessibility for all stakeholder groups; and
  • irreproachable ethical standards (Code of Ethics for Health Sciences Librarianship) that call for health sciences librarians to conduct all professional relationships with courtesy and respect.

In MLA’s effort to provide an environment of mutual human respect in which diverse participants may learn, network, and enjoy their interactions with colleagues, we recognize that we have a shared responsibility to create and sustain that environment for the benefit of all, consistent with these core values.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

MLA interprets diversity, equity, and inclusion as:

  • Diversity encompasses the ways that people are both alike and different, understanding, accepting, and valuing differences that include race and ethnicity, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, political beliefs, language, culture, nationality, age, ability status, and religion;
  • equity takes differences into account to ensure fair and impartial processes and outcomes, and equal opportunity; and
  • inclusion ensures that all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully; are intentionally valued for their distinctive skills, experiences, and perspectives; have equal access to resources and opportunities; feel a sense of belonging; and can contribute fully to the association’s success.

MLA Commitment

MLA is committed to:

  • ensuring that all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully; are intentionally valued for their distinctive skills, experiences, and perspectives, have quality access to resources and opportunities, feel a sense of belonging, and can contribute fully to MLA’s success;
  • providing a harassment-free environment for everyone, regardless of race and ethnicity, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, political beliefs, language, culture, nationality, age, ability status, and religion; and
  • protecting diversity, equity, inclusion, and the free expression of ideas.

Taken cumulatively, the values and beliefs delineated in MLA policy describe conduct based on a firm belief in the value of civil discourse and the free exploration of competing ideas and concepts—with a fundamental respect for the rights, dignity, and value of all individuals.

2. Behaviors

Speakers, moderators, leaders, and participants are asked to frame discussions as openly and inclusively as possible and to be aware of how language and tone of voice, behavior, or images may be perceived by others. In the context of MLA policy and the professional practices of librarianship:

  • critical examination of beliefs and viewpoints does not, by itself, constitute hostile conduct or harassment; and
  • the use of sexual imagery or language in the context of a professional discussion might not constitute hostile conduct or harassment.

At face-to-face meetings, all participants are expected to observe these rules and behaviors in all meeting venues, including online, and during meeting social events. Meeting participants seek to learn, network, and have fun. Please do so responsibly and with respect for the right of others to do likewise.

The following individual behaviors are encouraged:

  • be respectful
  • be direct and professional
  • be inclusive and seek diverse perspectives
  • understand and value different ideas and opinions
  • appreciate and accommodate similarities and differences
  • lead by example
  • keep discussions within the scope of the activity
  • maintain professional dialogue and tone on all MLA media communication channels
  • exercise your right to distance yourself from the person or situation (e.g., if it is not meaningful, if you feel unsafe or threatened, or if you feel your message is not being heard)
  • silence cell phones and other electronic devices (when applicable)
  • be present and attentive during the activity, and avoid side conversations or participating in activities that may be distracting to others
  • be prepared and well-informed (read materials; ensure your information is accurate; when in doubt, check first)
  • be mindful that most activities such as webinars, forums, and social media are recorded

The following individual behaviors are specifically prohibited:

  • engaging in harassment or intimidation, including sexual harassment or intimidation, such as unwelcome sexual attention, stalking (verbal, physical, or virtual), or unsolicited physical contact
  • yelling at or threatening anyone (verbal, physical, in print, or online)
  • posting messages that are defamatory, abusive, profane, threatening, or offensive
  • engaging in personal attacks
  • engaging in disruptive behavior that intimidates, disenfranchises, interrupts (an event, activity, or process) by causing a disturbance, or threatens the safety of an individual
  • posting illegal materials
  • posting copyrighted material without first obtaining permission of the copyright holder

Participants who are asked to stop disruptive, hostile, or harassing behavior are expected to comply immediately.

3. Reporting and Investigation

MLA is committed to ensure you feel comfortable in reporting inappropriate behavior you experience or observe. If possible, first seek out the person of authority in the related context (e.g., chair; board liaison or staff liaison, if a committee; chair, if domain hub or caucus; convener, if online discussion; meeting management or MLA staff, if at a physical meeting; etc.). This may be an effective way to address the behavior locally or in the moment.

Alternatively, contact either the MLA executive director, the MLA president, or the chair of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. This group of three (unless one or more individuals in the group are the subject of the inappropriate behavior) will lead the investigation, contact relevant individuals, gather all information needed, and take steps to resolve the situation with appropriate confidentiality.

4. Consequences and Resolution

Though all efforts will be made to seek a positive outcome where everyone can feel included and safe, incidents determined by MLA to violate MLA’s code of conduct could result in one or more of the following consequences:

  • being asked to stop their disruptive, hostile, or harassing behavior immediately
  • being asked to make sincere efforts to increase awareness, such as participating in trainings about diversity, equity, and inclusion or conflict management
  • being removed, without reimbursement, from face-to-face conferences, meetings, or webinars; if appropriate, event security or local law enforcement may be contacted
  • being excluded from online forums or other activities
  • no awarding of MLA continuing education (CE) or Academy of Health Information Professionals (AHIP) credit
  • terminating MLA membership, without reimbursement
  • other actions deemed appropriate by MLA and/or required by law
  • if appropriate, a follow-up report will be made to individuals who report being harassed

Adapted with permission of the American Library Association (ALA), 2019.
Adapted from ALA Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services (ODLOS) Glossary of Terms, University of Michigan: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion: Defining DEI, Glossary: About the Racial Equity Tools Glossary, and Built In: Diversity + Inclusion.
Adapted from the MEDLIB-L Guidelines.
Adapted from Mozilla Community Participation Guidelines.

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