Professional Ethics and Development By Kunwar Singh Lecturer PG Dept. of Library and information Science Utkal University, Bhubaneswar
In every walk of life, we are expected to behave in a manner which calls for a particular way of conducting ourselves. We may be in a family, a group, an organization, a business, an occupation or a profession; there are some guidelines which guide us how to interact.
Even thieves and dacoits have their code of conduct. These tell us what is right and what is wrong in a particular situation according to value system of a given group at a time.
In simple terms, it is called ethics or morals or value system or moral philosophy. Before arguing for the code, let us clarify meaning of the two terms viz: Ethics and Profession.
WHAT IS ETHICS?
The term ethics is derived from the Greek word “ethos” which means custom or character. Ethics is a set of moral principles that governs the person’s conduct, behavior, character, fairness, humbleness, morality, values, commitment, duties to self improvement to the society at large, and his obligation to the profession, to the institution and the society at large.
The Oxford English Dictionary clears the meaning of the word ethics as the science of morals; the department of study concerned with the principles of human duty.
WHAT IS A PROFESSION?
It is not merely a collection of individuals who get a living for themselves by the same kind of work, nor a group organized wholly for the economic protection of its members, although, naturally, this aspect is not overlooked.
It is really a body of people who carry on their duties in accordance with rules designed to enforce certain standards, with two main objectives- the better protection of its members and the better service to the public.
The essence of profession is that, although people enter it to gain a livelihood, the measure of their success is the service they perform, and not the financial gains which result.
PROFESSION OF LIBRARIANSHIP
Librarianship has got all the essential attributes of a profession as mentioned above.
As a profession, librarianship aims at service. Only those persons should be encouraged to enter the field who are interested at least as much in opportunities to help others as in a suitable salary and satisfactory conditions of work.
Librarians-to-be should, of course, like books. They should also like people and be able to work well with people. Good physical health and a certain amount of vitality are also required.
Dr. Ranganathan, Speaking about the profession of librarianship in India, reminded the library professionals that “The Library Profession is a noble profession. It can do no harm to anybody.”
He exhorted them to imbibe the spirit of service and research with dedication and undivided loyalty. He said, “If the young aspirants to the library profession, now put above want and on a par with other professions, devote themselves to their work with undivided attention, and throw themselves heart and soul to give the library service to every reader at every time they will have the satisfaction of having left not only library service and library science, but also our country at a much more advanced stage than what they found when they entered the library profession.”
A profession is not a profession without a set of basic or fundamental principles or ethics.
Professional Ethics is the science of right conduct and character.
Ethical issues are based on certain moral values which are considered to be good and worthwhile for the well being of the society in general.
According to Chambers 20th Century Dictionary, “ethics is a science of moral. It is that branch of philosophy which is concerned with the human character and conduct.”
Code of Ethics Adopted By JOCLAI (The Joint Council of Library Associations in India)
Determined to create a healthy professional tradition for the future, create and give up to ourselves the following code of professional ethics.
Library and Information profession is a service-oriented profession. Library and Information professionals should gather information, organize into easily accessible collections and provide mechanism that help productive utilization of the same by the eligible clientele.
Library and Information profession must be governed by the democratic principle of giving every user his/her opportunity to access to information resources and make special efforts to keep their interests growing towards further developments.
Library and information professionals must familiarize themselves with all available information sources that are of interest of their clientele either on demand or in anticipation. They may be in the form of book, technical papers and other non-print records and even sometimes specialists in any field of knowledge gathering, organizing and transmitting information to the appropriate targets of use is an essential credo of Librarians and information professional efficiency and effectiveness in finding targets of use for every information available is the main focuses of our profession.
Library and information professionals must keep service-orientation in their professional work. Personal philosophies and attitudes should not interfere with those of the institutional organizations.
Library and Information professionals should avoid unlawful and unethical pecuniary interests and must serve their clientele on an equitable basis.
Library and Information professionals should keep timeliness as a prime factor in serving information to user. A delayed response brings discredit to the service and ultimately may not be useful.
Library and Information professional should aim at the development of their own professional organizations and take pride in the ethos, activities and services. They should encourage younger generation of professionals with their own exemplary service.
Library and Information professionals should cultivate their field of knowledge in a professional way. They should contribute to the field by research, teaching and dissemination through literature.
Code of Ethics Focuses on Five Points
Ethics towards users: to perpetuate the good relationship between the library and its users
Ethics towards the profession: to ensure the responsibility for the development of the profession and to promote excellence amongst library professionals
Ethics towards colleagues: to strengthen the cooperation among library professionals and to increase good relationships with colleagues and other members of the profession
Ethics towards the organisation: to uphold and give due respect to the Library as an integral part of the organisation or institution
Ethics towards society: to affirm the library status and roles in providing information for the advancement of society.
Ethics of Librarianship
Ethics of librarianship, an essential element of Library Profession, denotes the conduct and behavior of those who adopt the profession.
A library professional owes certain obligations to the library’s public and its books, the library professional organizations and to himself.
Duty to the Readers
A librarian is for the readers and the latter cannot do without the valuable and expert services of a qualified librarian. Their bond of friendship is unbreakable. A librarian is called ‘the guide, the philosopher and the friend’ of the uninitiated and the scholar alike. A librarian has an onus to prove himself worthy of this honor.
Duty to the soul of the book
Books- the life-blood of great thinkers of the past and the present-are the essential constituents of a library. Without these a library cannot come into existence.
A book may be compared to a human being. Like the latter, it has a soul and a body. Paper, binding and printing constitute its body while the actual contents of the book constitute its soul.
A librarian owes a duty to the book to keep its body clean like his own body and save it from destruction by its enemies i.e. insects and white-ants. He should repair it at the moment it is torn and also treat it with insecticides at periodical intervals. Besides, he has to take appropriate steps to save the book from its other enemies which include fire, water, dust and human thieves etc.
Duty to the Profession
A profession is a calling, for admission to which, special training, education and character are required. The exalted profession of librarianship being a learned profession, has public service as its ideal. To maintain this high ideal, a librarian should cultivate ‘professional habits’ and should shun the bad ‘business habits’.
A librarian should see that he should never do anything which spoil the profession or which undermines its foundations.
Duties to the Staff
“ Each member of the staff should be regarded by the librarian as a colleague and should be encouraged to realize that his work, however menial it may appear, is essential for the smooth working of the whole establishment.”
Further, “in the assignment of work and hours there should be no marked leniency towards certain members, or the shifting of unpopular tasks always to those who are the most willing to do them. Long service is not always a reason for favored treatment, nor a low salary an excuse for poor work.”
Duty to himself
Duty of a librarian to himself means the acquaintance of a librarian with those books with which he is there to serve his clientele. He must know “something of everything” so that he may fulfill his duty to himself in a befitting manner.
His conduct must be enviable and he must treat his clients with sympathy and love- as his profession is like that of the medical profession. He heals the wounds of ignorance whereas the doctor heals bodily ulcers and ailments.
B. M. Headicar remarked, “We must have both dignity and humility.”
MUSTS FOR A LIBRARIAN
A librarian to be a successful professional must keep burning the ‘Seven Lamps of Conduct’.
Impersonal Book Selection
A librarian must select books without any prejudice. He should not accept the books if these are below standard. He should not reject books on the basis of his personal dislike of the authors of the books under the garb of declaring these as below standard.
Service before Self
‘ Service before Self’ must be the motto of a librarian since he is there not for himself but is a means to an end i.e. fulfillment of the reading requirements of his readers
A librarian must have a split-mind. In other words he should be capable of keeping alive the unfulfilled demands of his readers in his mind until he fulfills the same. Secondly, he should be capable of attending to many enquiries at a time. He must have an active mind.
A librarian must have a sympathetic attitude towards the readers and should try to inculcate self-confidence amongst them. He should treat them in such a manner that he becomes a lovable personality.
A librarian must be tactful; otherwise he will find it difficult to succeed since he has to deal with various types of human beings. Unless he tackles them in a tactful manner, he is sure to bring bad name to the profession.
A librarian’s job is not a ‘bed of roses’. It demands hard labour and perseverance. Those who cannot put their heart and soul into their jobs are advised to tap at some other door. Librarianship is not the last resort for the rejected souls. A Librarian must be industrious and patient in his disposition and nature.
Last but not the least, a librarian must be a scholar himself first, so that he may serve as a guide to others in the true sense of the word ‘Guide’.
He should be fully conversant with the reading materials which are stocked in his library in order to guide his readers. His scholarship should attract research workers towards his library and himself.
ROLE OF LIBRARY PROFESSIONALS IN DIGITAL INFORMATION ERA
The post Industrial Revolution Era brought significant changes in the S&T development that had revolutionized the concepts and applications.
According to Daniel Bell, the information revolution had captured and changed roles of individuals from blue-collar to white-collar jobs.. The concept of even the libraries where a host of activities are surrounded. Thus, along with the shift in the key concept of information revolution, changes have taken place in the role of information producers and information providers.
Library is a bridge between knowledge generator and knowledge users.
As the role of the libraries changes so will that of the librarian from custodians to navigator and evaluator of information and information resources, a role that is absolutely crucial in the new digital environment where there are great quantities of information, but finding the quality in that huge haystack is difficult task.
The crucial change in role involves in understanding, capturing, structuring the tacit and explicit knowledge in a proper order and content management.
For this a new kind of professionals have emerged as information managers, computer organizer, system managers, system administrators etc., even the designation of library in-charge is changing from the age-old librarian, to library manager, information officers, information scientist, information resource manager and cyberian to the present knowledge counselor and corporate intelligence professional.
Librarianship as a profession needs specialized knowledge, skill with creative ability.
A person possessing such skills and abilities can be called exact professional.
The society expects special responsibility from the professionals. However it is revealed from the study of the subject that we professionals talk more about the profession and practice little in discharging the responsibilities.
Therefore the library Associations have prepared code of ethics for library professionals and it is expected that they should follow those norms and standards given in the code of ethics. The practice of code of ethics will lead to the profession towards the excellence.
Headicar, B. M. A Manual of Library Organisation. London, Allen and Unwin, 1911.p. 253.
Flexner, Abraham. It Social Work a Profession? School and Society . Vol.1:904 (26June, 1915).
Paton, William B. Profession of Librarianship: Presidential Address . Library Association Record. (October, 1966), p.367-372.
Lewis, Roy and Madue, Augus. Professional People.
Boaz, Martha. Does the Library Profession really have a Code of Ethics? Special Libraries. Vol.59, No. 5(May-June, 1968). P.353-54.
Bundy, Mary Lee and Wasserman, Paul. Professionalism Reconsidered. College and Research Libraries . Vol.29, No.1 (January, 1968) p.7-8.
Fitzgerald, William A. American Librarianship. In Chandrasekharan, K. ed. Library Science in India, Madras, Madras Library Association, 1953, p.9.
Ranganathan, S. R. Five Laws of Library Science. Bombay, Asia Publishing House, 1957. P. 449.
Chamber’s Twentieth Century Dictionary, ed. By William Geddie. Rev. ed. Edinpurgh, W. & R. Chambers Ltd., 1959. P.365.
Mukherjee, A. K. Librarianship; its philosophy and history. Bombay, Asia Publishing House, 1966. P45-52.
Mittal, R. L. Split-mind and reference service. Indian Librarian. Vol.14, No.2 (September, 1959) p.71-72.
The Oxford English Dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue Vol. 3. London: Oxford University Press, 1969. P.312.
Chopra, H. R. Librarianship as a Profession in India: Jain Brothers, 1989. P.4-5.
Prahakada Rao, M. and Satyanarayana, K. V. Role of Library Professionals in the Digital Information Era. In Laxman Rao, N. and Viswamohan, V. ed. Manpower development for information management in competitive environment, Hyderabad: IATLIS, 2002. P.84.