B.1 Core Values, Ethics, and Core Competencies (Old Number 40)

Copyright: An Interpretation of the Code of Professional Ethics for Librarians (NEW)

B.1.1 Core Values of Librarianship (Old Number 40.1)

The foundation of modern librarianship rests on an essential set of core values which define, inform, and guide all professional practice. These values reflect the history and ongoing development of the profession and have been advanced, expanded, and refined by numerous policy statements of the American Library Association. Among these are:

• Access
• Equity
• Intellectual Freedom & Privacy
• Public Good
• Sustainability

It would be difficult, if not impossible, to express our values more eloquently than ALA already has in the Freedom to Read statement, the Library Bill of Rights, the ALA Mission Statement, Libraries: An American Value and other documents. These policies have been carefully thought out, articulated, debated, and approved by the ALA Council. They are interpreted, revised, or expanded when necessary. Over time, the values embodied in these statements have been embraced by the majority of librarians as the foundations of their practice. Adopted, 2004.

(See “Policy Reference File”: Core Values Task Force Report: 2024 LLX, CD#34; Core Values Task Force II Report: 2003-04, CD #7.2 - PDF, 5 pgs)


B.1.2 Code of Professional Ethics for Librarians (Old Number 40.2)

As members of the American Library Association, we recognize the importance of codifying and making known to the profession and to the general public the ethical principles that guide the work of librarians, other professionals providing information services, library trustees, and library staffs.

Ethical dilemmas occur when values are in conflict. The American Library Association Code of Ethics states the values to which we are committed, and embodies the ethical responsibilities of the profession in this changing information environment.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources.
  3. 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.
  4. We respect intellectual property rights and advocate balance between the interests of information users and rights holders.
  5. 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.
  6. We do not advance private interests at the expense of library users, colleagues, or our employing institutions.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

Adopted at the 1939 Midwinter Meeting by the ALA Council; amended June 30, 1981; June 28, 1995; and January 22, 2008


B.1.3 Core Competencies of Librarianship (Old Number 40.3)

This document defines the basic knowledge to be possessed by all persons graduating from an ALA-accredited master’s program in library and information studies. Librarians working in school, academic, public, special, and governmental libraries and in other contexts will need to possess specialized knowledge beyond that specified here.


  1. Foundations of the Profession
  2. Information Resources
  3. Organization of Recorded Knowledge and Information
  4. Technological Knowledge and Skills
  5. Reference and User Services
  6. Research
  7. Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning
  8. Administration and Management

A person graduating from an ALA-accredited master’s program in library and information studies should know and, where appropriate, be able to employ:

  1. Foundations of the Profession
    1. The ethics, values, and foundational principles of the library and information profession.
    2. The role of library and information professionals in the promotion of democratic principles and intellectual freedom (including freedom of expression, thought, and conscience).
    3. The history of libraries and librarianship.
    4. The history of human communication and its impact on libraries.
    5. Current types of library (school, public, academic, special, etc.) and closely related information agencies.
    6. National and international social, public, information, economic, and cultural policies and trends of significance to the library and information profession.
    7. The legal framework within which libraries and information agencies operate. That framework includes laws relating to copyright, privacy, freedom of expression, equal rights (e.g., the Americans with Disabilities Act), and intellectual property.
    8. The importance of effective advocacy for libraries, librarians, other library workers, and library services.
    9. The techniques used to analyze complex problems and create appropriate solutions.
    10. Effective communication techniques (verbal and written).
    11. Certification and/or licensure requirements of specialized areas of the profession.
  2. Information Resources
    1. Concepts and issues related to the lifecycle of recorded knowledge and information, from creation through various stages of use to disposition.
    2. Concepts, issues, and methods related to the acquisition and disposition of resources, including evaluation, selection, purchasing, processing, storing, and de-selection.
    3. Concepts, issues, and methods related to the management of various collections.
    4. Concepts, issues, and methods related to the maintenance of collections, including preservation and conservation.
  3. Organization of Recorded Knowledge and Information
    1. The principles involved in the organization and representation of recorded knowledge and information.
    2. The developmental, descriptive, and evaluative skills needed to organize recorded knowledge and information resources.
    3. The systems of cataloging, metadata, indexing, and classification standards and methods used to organize recorded knowledge and information.
  4. Technological Knowledge and Skills
    1. Information, communication, assistive, and related technologies as they affect the resources, service delivery, and uses of libraries and other information agencies.
    2. The application of information, communication, assistive, and related technology and tools consistent with professional ethics and prevailing service norms and applications.
    3. The methods of assessing and evaluating the specifications, efficacy, and cost efficiency of technology-based products and services.
    4. The principles and techniques necessary to identify and analyze emerging technologies and innovations in order to recognize and implement relevant technological improvements.
  5. Reference and User Services
    1. The concepts, principles, and techniques of reference and user services that provide access to relevant and accurate recorded knowledge and information to individuals of all ages and groups.
    2. Techniques used to retrieve, evaluate, and synthesize information from diverse sources for use by individuals of all ages and groups.
    3. The methods used to interact successfully with individuals of all ages and groups to provide consultation, mediation, and guidance in their use of recorded knowledge and information.
    4. Information literacy/information competence techniques and methods, numerical literacy, and statistical literacy.
    5. The principles and methods of advocacy used to reach specific audiences to promote and explain concepts and services.
    6. The principles of assessment and response to diversity in user needs, user communities, and user preferences.
    7. The principles and methods used to assess the impact of current and emerging situations or circumstances on the design and implementation of appropriate services or resource development.
  6. Research
    1. The fundamentals of quantitative and qualitative research methods.
    2. The central research findings and research literature of the field.
    3. The principles and methods used to assess the actual and potential value of new research.
  7. Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning
    1. The necessity of continuing professional development of practitioners in libraries and other information agencies.
    2. The role of the library in the lifelong learning of patrons, including an understanding of lifelong learning in the provision of quality service and the use of lifelong learning in the promotion of library services.
    3. Learning theories, instructional methods, and achievement measures; and their application in libraries and other information agencies.
    4. The principles related to the teaching and learning of concepts, processes and skills used in seeking, evaluating, and using recorded knowledge and information.
  8. Administration and Management
    1. The principles of planning and budgeting in libraries and other information agencies.
    2. The principles of effective personnel practices and human resource development.
    3. The concepts behind, and methods for, assessment and evaluation of library services and their outcomes.
    4. The concepts behind, and methods for, developing partnerships, collaborations, networks, and other structures with all stakeholders and within communities served.
    5. The concepts behind, issues relating to, and methods for, principled, transformational leadership.

Adopted as amended by the ALA Council, January 27, 2009, 2008-2009 ALA CD#10-10.1 revised. (PDF, 6 pgs)


B.1.4 Copyright: An Interpretation of the Code of Professional Ethics for Librarians (NEW)

Librarians are sources of copyright information for their user communities. Librarians should acquire a solid understanding of the purpose of copyright law and knowledge of its details relevant to library activities. They should do so in order to develop the ability to critically analyze issues of fair use or other limits to the rights of copyright holders, as well as to gain the confidence to implement the law using good judgment. Librarians and library staff should be educated to recognize and observe copyright and its limits, to understand and act on their rights and those of their users, and to be ready to inform or properly refer users with questions pertaining to copyright. When the balance between rights holders and information users' needs to be restored, librarians should engage with rights holders and legislators and advocate on behalf of their users and user rights.” Adopted, 2014. (See “Policy Reference File": Copyright: An Interpretation of the Code of Ethics, 2013-2014 ALA CD#40.1_63014_act – PDF, 4 pgs )