Handbook for Librarians & Professional and Administrative Staff in the Harvard University Library

Professional Ethics Statement by the American Library Association

ALA Statement on Professional Ethics

The following statement was adopted by the Harvard University Librarians' Assembly on December 12, 1985.

American Library Association's Statement on Professional Ethics, 1981

Since 1939, the American Library Association has recognized the importance of codifying and making known to the public and the profession the principles which guide librarians in action. This latest revision of the Code of Ethics reflects changes in the nature of the profession and in its social and institutional environment. It should be revised and augmented as necessary.

Librarians significantly influence or control the selection, organization, preservation and dissemination of information. In a political system grounded in an informed citizenry, librarians are members of a profession explicitly committed to intellectual freedom and the freedom of access to information. We have a special obligation to ensure the free flow of information and ideas to present and future generations.

Librarians are dependent upon one another for the bibliographical resources that enable us to provide information services and have obligations for maintaining the highest level of personal integrity and competence.

Code of Ethics

1) Librarians must provide the highest level of service through appropriate and usefully organized collections, fair and equitable circulation and service policies, and skillful, accurate, unbiased, and courteous responses to all request for assistance.

2) Librarians must resist all efforts by groups or individuals to censor library materials.

3) Librarians must protect each user's right to privacy with respect to information sought or received, and materials consulted, borrowed, or acquired.

4) Librarians must adhere to the principles of due process and equality of opportunity in peer relationships and personnel actions.

5) Librarians must distinguish clearly in their actions and statements between their personal philosophies and attitudes and those of an institution or professional body.

6) Librarians must avoid situations in which personal interests might be served or financial benefits gained at the expense of library users, colleagues, or the employing institution.

Last modified on Thursday, April 18, 2002.