A critical examination of the Librarians Registration Council of Nigeria Code of Ethics in the Light of International best practices in Library and Information Science Professions.

Author:Adejumo, Florence Enyiema


Professions are described as having characteristics such as mastery of esoteric skills. A profession is a calling, admission to which special training, education and character is required. An individual and collective concern for the common good is often included in this list of professional attributes. A profession is not deemed a profession without a set of basic or fundamental principles or ethics. In other words, all real professions are rooted in an ethical concern for some fundamental good. Ethical considerations are significant to the library and Information Science Professions (LIS) (Singh 2014, Bayles, 1989, Bayles, 1989, Bowie, 2006 as cited by Smith, 2009). There are defined goals, values, principles, attributes, rules, regulations, laws and the likes for a profession. These core values are related and the purpose is to give a standard direction towards the inculcation and attainment of the ideals of the profession. For this unique reasons, it is generally known that come what may medical doctors are sworn to saving lives, lawyers are sworn to defending a client. The client-customer relationship is paramount in today's business world in the hospitality, banking and such industry customers they believe are King. LIS professionals are sworn to providing needed information to the general public as much and as timely as possible without recourse to any form of prejudice or bias. LIS professionals have a special obligation to support and promote the acquisition and equitable dissemination of quality information and ideas to present and future generations.

In Book's review of Buchanan and Henderson (2009)'s "Case Studies in LIS Ethics" the author avers that "ethics in LIS is significant to the extent of the ever-increasing global responsibilities information professionals face. It allows individuals and organizations the opportunity to explore the personal, professional, local and global realms involved in LIS work and brings about understanding of a respect for ethical issues". LIS professionals are expected to follow ethical standards typically prescribed by a recognized body whether local, (Librarians Registration Council of Nigeria (LRCN), American Library Association (ALA) etc or international (International Federation of Library Association and Institutions (IFLA), Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) etc). Such standards are usually codified in documents known as "Codes of Ethics". It is generally known that these codes offer a basis for making decisions and applying solutions to ethnical problems and dilemmas in the profession. Buchanan and Henderson (2009) insist that there still exist a host of traditional and emerging ethical problems, conundrums and sometimes insoluble dilemmas, including protection of physical and intellectual property, conflict of interest, censorship, over bearing peers, personnel and administrators who sometimes become bullies anomalous rules and agreements that delimit access, research misconduct, judicious collection development etc. The scholars stressed that technologies, laws, policies and practices have changed dramatically with sometimes dire, sometimes positive consequences for the field of LIS. They emphasized that many of these core principles remain intact and continue to be relevant, but many additional changes including legal, technological, social, political and cultural face the field in significant flux. As such LIS professionals work in increasingly complex matrix of such changes.

To this extent, it is generally believed that professions need codes of ethics to thrive. These codes determine the limits of acceptable conduct and point out actions regarded as right and wrong in the occupation (Odero, 2012). According to Finks (1991) as cited by Vaagan (2002) such a code provide members with not only a sense of identity but also with a basis for consistent ethical behaviour, thus serving as a frame of reference for decision making which is impersonal and objective. Matters related to ethical issues have long been a concern for librarians". "Its relevance is gaining more significance. The information industry presently is confronted with issues of copyright, privacy, freedom of expression, equal rights, digital divide and a host of other ethical concerns characteristic of a digital environment" (Kochler and Pamberton, 1999). "A profession maintains society's support through a good reputation built on reliability, integrity and competency among its members. Professional codes of ethics go a long way in shielding members from malpractices" (Odero, 2002). Such codes of professional ethics provide information professionals, with guiding principles. It is towards this end that the LIS professional have adopted codes of professional ethics.

It is evident from authors perspectives that there is a common ground for the values and principles stated in the codes of ethics document in the LIS profession worldwide. But "a comparative analysis of code of ethics for librarians shows disparities in approach" (Kochler and Pemberton, 2002; Vaaghan, 2002, Shachaf, 2005 as cited by Odero, 2012). Those that provide broad general clauses and those that address specific activities individually" (Blair, 2005 as cited by Odero, 2012). Shanchaf (2005) as cited by Smith (2009) examined librarians 13 codes of Ethics from twenty-eight countries and compared the frequency with which particular principles appear, including professional development (89%), integrity (89%), confidentiality and privacy (85%), free and equal access to information (82%), conflict of interest and personal gain (71%), responsibilities toward profession (67%), responsibilities toward colleagues (64%), censorship (64%), collection development (53%), competency (50%). Sturges (2009) maintain that:

The code in virtually every other case in...

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