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Code of Ethics
We significantly influence or control the selection, organization, preservation, and dissemination of information. In a political system grounded in an informed citizenry, we are members of a profession explicitly committed to intellectual freedom and the freedom of access to information. We have a special obligation to ensure the free flow of information and ideas to present and future generations.
The principles of this Code are expressed in broad statements to guide ethical decision making. These statements provide a framework; they cannot and do not dictate conduct to cover particular situations.
- We provide the highest level of service to all library users through appropriate and usefully organized resources; equitable service policies; equitable access; and accurate, unbiased, and courteous responses to all requests.
- We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources.
- We protect each library user's right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted.
- We respect intellectual property rights and advocate balance between the interests of information users and rights holders.
- We treat co-workers and other colleagues with respect, fairness, and good faith, and advocate conditions of employment that safeguard the rights and welfare of all employees of our institutions.
- We do not advance private interests at the expense of library users, colleagues, or our employing institutions.
- We distinguish between our personal convictions and professional duties and do not allow our personal beliefs to interfere with fair representation of the aims of our institutions or the provision of access to their information resources.
- We strive for excellence in the profession by maintaining and enhancing our own knowledge and skills, by encouraging the professional development of co-workers, and by fostering the aspirations of potential members of the profession.
- We affirm the inherent dignity and rights of every person. We work to recognize and dismantle systemic and individual biases; to confront inequity and oppression; to enhance diversity and inclusion; and to advance racial and social justice in our libraries, communities, profession, and associations through awareness, advocacy, education, collaboration, services, and allocation of resources and spaces.
Adopted at the 1939 Midwinter Meeting by the ALA Council; amended June 30, 1981; June 28, 1995; January 22, 2008; and June 29, 2021.
- Copyright: An Interpretation of the Code of Ethics (amended January 29, 2019)
- Conflicts of Interest Q&A (amended April 30, 2019)
- Enforcement of the Code of Ethics Q&A (amended January 28, 2019)
- Ethics and Social Media Q&A (amended January 28, 2019)
- Speech in the Workplace Q&A (amended April 30, 2019)
The Committee on Professional Ethics (COPE) consists of 7 members appointed by the Council Committee on Committees, in cooperation with the ALA President-Elect. Members serve a 2 year term and the Committee is led by the chair.
If you are interested in becoming a member of COPE or other ALA committees, ALA members must fill out the volunteer form to be consider. The form is open from early August to early November. The ALA president-elect makes committee appointments. For more information, visit Committees, Volunteer Resources & Opportunities.
COPE committee member’s initial term is for two years and may be reappointed for an additional two-year term. To be reappointed for a second term, you must fill out the volunteer form.