The profession of librarianship is not a licensed profession, like teachers, lawyers, engineers, health professionals (nurses, pharmacists, dentists, etc.) and numerous other professions which are regulated for the good of society. Professional associations set and enforce principles and guidelines by which licensed professions fulfill their roles. Librarians do not fall into this category. Neither our library schools or professional library associations emphasize basic guidelines, principles or ethical codes by which we fulfill our roles. Yes, with time, we gain an understanding of what principles and guidelines exist, but these codes do not play the same prominent role as they do in other licensed professions.
Why should we pause and consider this issue? This is a period of great change and vulnerability, we see the rise of corporatization within our institution and recognize that fiscal agendas play an increasingly prominent role in the decision-making process, whether it be to acquire large grants, government funding or corporate donors. Today we recognize that these are global issues which require global solutions. In 2008 IFLA and FAIFE approved the Manifesto on Transparency , a valuable document that succinctly articulates various forms of corruption that can happen in our libraries and the dangers when there is an absence of transparency. This manifesto followed the earlier statement on the 1999 statement on Intellectual Freedom.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines corruption as “dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power , typically involving bribery” – IFLA and FAIFA’s Manifesto states: “Corruption undermines basic social values, threatens the rule of law, and undermines trust in political institutions. It creates a business environment in which only the corrupt thrive. It hinders scientific work and research, weakens the functions of the professions and obstructs the emergence of the knowledge society. It is a major contribution to the creation and prolongation of human misery and the inhibiting of development. Corruption succeeds most under conditions of secrecy and general ignorance.”
In the manifesto IFLA has called all library and information professionals to ensure that librarians counter corruption directly affecting libraries and librarianship ” … as in the sourcing and supply of library materials, appointments to library posts and administration of library contracts and finances. Library Associations should support this through the creation or strengthening of Codes of Professional Ethics” and “Libraries and information services should extend their mission so as to become more active components in good governance and the struggle against corruption.” These are times in which we need to remember such principles, be vigilant and out spoken when situations arise.