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Ethics, Committee on Professional | The American Library Association Archives

Name: Ethics, Committee on Professional

Historical Note:

The Executive Board created the first Ethics Committee of the American Library Association in 1926 (1) "to consider modifications on the Code adopted by the Council" (2). The first Code of Ethics was proposed in 1929 (3), and appeared as the "Suggested Code of Ethics" in March, 1930 (4).

The present day Professional Ethics Committee of the ALA was created as a Special Committee by the Executive Board in November, 1970 to "prepare a Code of Ethics for librarians" (5). With its proposal of a formal Statement on Professional Ethics, it became a Standing Committee, with the official title of the Professional Ethics Committee (6).

The Statement of Professional Ethics, which was approved and adopted by the ALA Council on 22 January 1975, was a six-point proposal suggesting "certain ethical norms which, while not exclusive to, are basic to librarianship" (8), and summarizes the librarian's obligation to: maintain the principles outlined in the Library Bill of Rights; reconcile these with the integrity of an employing institution's policies; protect the confidential relationship of the user to the library; avoid any personal financial gain at the expense of the employing institution; and observe prudence, objectivity, and fairness in those administrative tasks dealing with employees.

The Statement of Professional Ethics was the first issued by the ALA in over thirty years (9), when a lengthy proposal, supplementing the Code of 1929, was adopted in December, 1938 (10). Though clearly the model for its successor, these earlier guidelines were criticized for their emphasis on library administration and management, and their consequent failure to address the ethical principles governing the activities of librarians, their relation to patrons, and their employing institutions, and their responsibility to uphold the doctrines set forth in the Library Bill of Rights.

The Committee's original Statement of Purpose (11) was augmented to include the solicitiation of "explanations, interpretations, and additional statements prepared by this committee or elicitied from other units of ALA" (12).




1. ALA Bulletin, November 1926, p. 663.

2. ALA Bulletin, May 1931, p. 271.

3. ALA Council Proceedings, Midwinter Conference, Chicago, 30-31 December, 1929, First Session (30 December, 1929), pp. 2-14.

4. ALA Bulletin, March 1930, pp. 58-62.

5. ALA Handbook of Organization, 1971-1972, p. 13.

6. ALA Handbook of Organization, 1975-76, p. 11.

7. ALA Council Minutes, Midwinter Conference, Chicago, 21-24 January, 1975, Second Session (22 January, 1975), pp. 9-11/text. Exhibit 12.

8. Statement of Professional Ethics: Introduction, January, 1975, reprinted in the ALA Yearbook, 1976 Centennial Edition, p. 155.

9. Ibid., p. 155.

10. ALA Council, Proceedings, Midwinter Conference, Chicago, 27-30 December, 1938, Second Session (28 December, 1938), pp. 47-52/text reprinted in the ALA Bulletin, 33/2 (February, 1939), pp. 128-130.

11. ALA Handbook of Organization, 1971-72, p. 13.

12. ALA Handbook of Organization, 1975-76, p. 11.

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