Professional Ethics and Development
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
• 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
• 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
• 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
• 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
• 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
• Library and Information professionals should avoid unlawful and
unethical pecuniary interests and must serve their clientele on an
• 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
• 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
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
• 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
• A library professional owes certain obligations to the library’s
public and its books, the library professional organizations and to
• 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
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
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
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
• 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
• 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
• Library is a bridge between knowledge generator and
• 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
• 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
• 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.
1. Headicar, B. M. A Manual of Library Organisation. London, Allen and Unwin, 1911.p. 253.
2. Flexner, Abraham. It Social Work a Profession? School and Society. Vol.1:904 (26June, 1915).
3. Paton, William B. Profession of Librarianship: Presidential Address. Library Association Record. (October,
4. Lewis, Roy and Madue, Augus. Professional People.
5. Boaz, Martha. Does the Library Profession really have a Code of Ethics? Special Libraries. Vol.59, No. 5(May-
June, 1968). P.353-54.
6. Bundy, Mary Lee and Wasserman, Paul. Professionalism Reconsidered. College and Research Libraries.
Vol.29, No.1 (January, 1968) p.7-8.
7. Fitzgerald, William A. American Librarianship. In Chandrasekharan, K. ed. Library Science in India, Madras,
Madras Library Association, 1953, p.9.
8. Ranganathan, S. R. Five Laws of Library Science. Bombay, Asia Publishing House, 1957. P. 449.
9. Chamber’s Twentieth Century Dictionary, ed. By William Geddie. Rev. ed. Edinpurgh, W. & R. Chambers
Ltd., 1959. P.365.
10. Mukherjee, A. K. Librarianship; its philosophy and history. Bombay, Asia Publishing House, 1966. P45-52.
11. Mittal, R. L. Split-mind and reference service. Indian Librarian. Vol.14, No.2 (September, 1959) p.71-72.
12. The Oxford English Dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue Vol. 3. London: Oxford University Press, 1969.
13. Chopra, H. R. Librarianship as a Profession in India: Jain Brothers, 1989. P.4-5.
14. 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.