This post is adapted from Choy Fatt Cheong. 2005 March. Developing ethical principles. Singapore Libraries Bulletin, 15 (1):10-11.
We hope that these broad principles will form the basis to guide librarians in thinking through difficult issues and making decisions based on values that we share. We hope these statements would jumpstart the discussion for our members. A professional ethical code would only serve its purpose if the majority of our members participate in shaping it through debates, discussions and reflection.
The principles are purposely broad in scope to cover most scenarios. We hope that librarians, academics and members can comment on each of these principles on a continuous basis as our environment changes. Good commentaries can then be adopted by LAS over time and together these commentaries can form valuable guidelines for us all. We hope that these statements of ethical principles will be responsive to changes in environment and yet rooted to fundamental principles. We hope that it will be a “living” code that stays relevant to our work and professional lives.
1. Always direct our work towards the preservation and transfer of knowledge in all recorded forms across time and space for the benefit of humankind.
The first principle is in fact a statement of the purpose of librarianship. The preservation and transfer of knowledge is the intellectual province which we are engaged in, the purpose for which is to benefit humankind. We may or may not be actually be the custodian of human knowledge, but we certainly engage in activities that promote its preservation for future generations. Transfer of knowledge is also a key phrase as it provides us an active role to ensure that knowledge preserved is used and disseminated. Many issues such as censorship, intellectual freedom, the digital divide, information access can be explored under this principle.
2. Always strive to develop and strengthen our capabilities to serve our users better.
The second principle embodies our primary orientation as a user-centric and service-centric profession. It aims to encourage librarians to take an active role in developing their skills and to strengthen their existing skills with the aim of better serving their users.
3. Always advance the interests of our profession and ensure its continuity.
The third principle is fundamental to our profession. We need to do the utmost to develop aread of expertise to be recognised as a valuable profession that can contribute effectively to our society.
The third principle is fundamental to our profession. We need to do the utmost to develop aread of expertise to be recognised as a valuable profession that can contribute effectively to our society. Our profession must maintain a shape and form that is recognisable and acceptable to society at large for it to remain viable to engage in the first and second principles.
The principles were proposed by the ad-hoc committee on ethics formed in November 2004. The committee members were Choy Fatt Cheong, Lee-Wang Cheng Yeng, Lim Siew Kim, Tan Lay Tin, Saralee Turner, Yeo Pin Pin (Chair).