On Not Revising the ALA Code of Ethics: an Alternate Proposal

By John Buschman, Library Philosophy and Practice Vol. 8, No. 2 (Spring 2006)

The American Library Association (ALA) Committee on Professional Ethics is undertaking a several-year review of the Code of Ethics, nominally for reasons stated in various Annual Conference announcements: “Relevant or relic? Does [it] live up to the challenges of the new millennium?” “The rusty, old ALA Code of Ethics gets new scrutiny…. [It] needs rigorous revision to distinguish individual ethics from institutional protection.”1 The reality behind those simplistic statements questions is much more complicated, and I am here making the case for not revising the ALA Code of Ethics. I do so not because it is already perfect in every little way, nor because I consider it so fundamentally flawed that it should be scrapped entirely and begun again. On the contrary, if actually followed and enforced, our policies would place librarians among the ethical and intellectual leaders in the professions. There are three strong reasons not to revise the Code of Ethics and I will review each in order.

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