ALA Takes a Stance on Social and Racial Justice with Proposed Ninth Principle of the Code of Ethics

ALA Council, Committee on Professional Ethics (COPE), Diversity, Professional Ethics

The Committee on Professional Ethics has proposed a ninth principle be added to the ALA Code of Ethics. This proposed additional principle is meant to codify the library and information services profession’s commitment to racial and social justice and further emphasize diversity and inclusion as one of the profession’s core beliefs. The proposed ninth principle is as follows:

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.

This new principle was the product of work done by the Social and Racial Justice subgroup of the Committee on Professional Ethics (COPE) in collaboration with groups within the ALA including the Office for Diversity, Literacy, and Outreach Advisory Committee, the Committee on Diversity,and the Intellectual Freedom Committee. A draft of the principle was also posted on ALA Connect (a forum for ALA members, sections, and roundtables to communicate with each other) so that members could provide feedback. After all feedback was considered the members of COPE voted on the final draft of the proposed principle on May 11, 2021. This final draft will be brought before the ALA Council and voted on during the Council III meeting of the ALA Annual conference on June 29th, 2021. 

The Social and Racial Justice subgroup also made recommendations to COPE about other changes to the Code of Ethics and its interpretations if the ninth principle is passed.  These recommendations including revisions to the preamble to provide context for the racial and social justice elements now present in the Code of Ethics, additional information or Q&As regrading ableism and sexism, and guidance for collectors on how to balance the second principle which addresses the profession’s stance on censorship and the new ninth principle. The Racial and Social Justice subgroup of COPE will disband after the 2021 Annual Conference, as the purpose of the subgroup was the creation of this additional principle.


  • As a former longtime ALA member, now retired, I feel a deep urgency to speak up against this Ninth Principle, particularly for its wording.
    The wording is merely current jargon, meaningful to those initiated in its code words and imprecise to everyone else.
    Does dismantling “individual bias” really mean telling people what to think about everything, backed up by threats? Individuality is not the problem; it saves us. If everyone were treated as an individual, and not as a member of a group, we wouldn’t need this Ninth Principle.
    Does confronting “oppression” include all forms such as managerial authority which is often viewed as oppressive? Are we willing to say goodbye to all organization charts?
    Is “inclusion” meant for those who affirm the jargon, and does it imply exclusion of others who do not pass this loyalty test? Our pronciples should not use language that is specialized, secretive, and meaningful only to insiders, thus creating a class of outsiders.
    Where is the more fundamental, self-evident language of freedom and tolerance, that everyone understands?

  • “We work to recognize and dismantle systemic and individual biases;…” Does this take into account the biases of the librarians upholding the principles? I have a hunch that the diverse group that formulated these principles is solidly progressive, and intellectually limited to their social justice worldview. I hope there are still librarians who practice professional ethics and strive to provide their patrons with full and unfettered access to the information/resources they request regardless of content, especially those seeking information counter to social justice dictates. And, yes, this is a cult.

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