The biggest impact/foreseeable harm that I could imagine in my research about the unconscious biases present in the materials selection process in a library on those who volunteer participate is the discovery that they carry substantial biases when participating in material selections process. Most libraries have a materials selection policy, and the discovery that a person is not following it (consciously or otherwise) could lead to difficulty in their jobs, if not mean the termination of their employment. Consequently, the guarantee of privacy and anonymity is paramount for this study, because it is attempting to learn more about an unconscious behaviour, not have people lose their jobs! It could lead a certain amount of distress as well, at the discovery of one’s own biases.
This study requires human research, and therefore require review by the Research Ethics Board (REB). I will be interviewing librarians and other library workers responsible for selecting and purchasing materials as well as library officials about their policies related to material selection. According to the “Proportionate Review and Risk Matrix” I will only require review from one member of the REB: the group’s vulnerability is “low” (librarians are not typically considered a vulnerable group) and the research risk is medium (at most).
Another dimension to consider is coercion to participate. In order to ensure that people are not pressured to participate in the study I plan on soliciting potential participants through professional associations, such as the CLA and the OLA, rather than through their employers.