Code of Ethics for Librarians


The 1994 Unesco Public Library manifesto states that:

Freedom, prosperity and the development of society and of individuals are fundamental human values. They will only be attained through the ability of well-informed citizens to exercise their democratic rights and to play an active role in society. Constructive participation and the development of democracy depend on satisfactory education as well as on free and unlimited access to knowledge, thought, culture and information.

The above statement must be reflected in the performance of our daily duties as librarians in national, public, academic, school or special libraries. The Code of Ethics sets out the essential guidelines for the conduct and performance expected of all librarians. It provides a framework within which all librarians should operate.

1. Principles of professional values

1.1 Librarians fulfill a fundamental role in the selection, organisation, preservation and dissemination of information. They belong to a profession that promotes intellectual freedom based on free access to information, while taking into account public and educational responsibility.

1.2 Librarians must maintain and continuously develop their professional knowledge and skills to ensure excellence in their profession.

1.3 Librarians should be loyal to the goals and aims of their library. They should project a positive image of the library and promote the prestige of the profession in society.

1.4 Librarians should maintain high standards of professional integrity and should not engage in conduct which could prejudice the standing of their profession. They must respect intellectual property rights.

2. Relationship with users and colleagues

2.1 Librarians should protect and promote the rights of every user to have free and equal access to sources of information without discrimination. Users should have the right to privacy and confidentiality for information sought or received, materials consulted and websites visited. The exception to this rule may be justified only in exceptional circumstances on grounds of national security or criminal investigation warranted by a court order.

2.2 Librarians must treat fellow workers with respect, fairness and advocate conditions of employment that safeguard the rights and welfare of all employees.

3. Responsibility for library materials

3.1 Librarians should collect, organise, preserve and disseminate library materials on the basis of professional judgement and knowledge. They should aim at providing a balanced, unbiased collection. They must be committed to militate in favour of free access to all published materials and to resist any form of censorship on grounds of religious dogmas, fanaticism or any form of politically biased opinion. In case of seditious or illicit literature such as terrorism or child pornography, librarians have the discretion to take appropriate action.

4. Relationship with other libraries

4.1 Librarians should aim at developing and promoting understanding and cooperation among libraries through mutual respect, courtesy and the willingness to share knowledge and experience.

5. Duties towards society

5.1 Librarians should encourage a general appreciation of the value of library service in society and they should keep abreast of information pertaining to organisations and institutions whose aims are compatible with those of the library.

5.2 Librarians should participate in national and community activities and so represent the library that it occupies its legitimate place among other educational, social and cultural agencies.

6. Conflict of interest

6.1 Librarians must avoid situations in which personal interests might be served or financial benefits gained at the expense of library users, colleagues or their employer. They should not place themselves in positions of conflict of interest and shall not use the information and resources available to them by virtue of their position for their personal interest. They must always strive to work in the interest of the employing institution and society rather than for their personal interest.

6.2 Where the employing institution is deviates from the principles of professionalism, librarians should stand up to defend their position based on their professional beliefs.