Ethics, Politics & Librarianship

Associations grouping qualified professionals expect an ethical behaviour from their members in all their actions, activities, decisions-making and relationships with  stakeholders in the profession. To this end, many professional associations have adopted written code of ethics for their members. These codes, generally underlying key principles and values of the profession,  are meant to provide guidelines to members in their day-to-day activities. In the same vein, many national library associations throughout the world have developed their own code of ethics and in Mauritius such a code has been developed by the Mauritius Council of Registered Librarians. The document is available online and may be accessed at the site of the Council

For the National Assembly Elections of 05 May 2010, the Electoral Supervisory Commission published a Code of Conduct  “to ensure the integrity of electoral process” and which was  “conceived as a set of principles to be adhered to by all stakeholders and to be upheld in both spirit and letter.” Further, in section 1.2 (d) of the code, it is stipulated that “holders of public office, however, shall not exercise their office or utilise public resources, except where security considerations require otherwise, in such a way as to become the subject of complaints for having been used to further or foster partisan purposes.” The document can be accessed  by clicking on the following link  Code of Conduct for the National Assembly Elections 2010 . Publics officers, including librarians in the public sector, were required to refrain from campaigning in favour of any political party or get involved in party-politics. Public officers/ librarians electioneering for any candidate or party in any way would therefore mean a  breach of the Code of conduct. If such is the case, is there any consequence for such breach of ethical practices? Does non-adherence to the code entail any sanction/penalty or impact on the future employability of the employee for violation of the professional ethics?

In the case of registered librarians of Mauritius, the code does not have any legal implications. The principles stipulated in the code are mere guidelines for librarians though morally they are bound to follow them. However, it should be pointed out that the Mauritius Council of Registered Librarians Act 4 of 2000 has made provisions at section 19 of cases where the Council “shall remove from the register the name of any person who is found by the Council to have been guilty of misconduct, negligence, incompetence or any breach of the code of practice of the librarian profession“.

The breach of the code of practice of the librarian profession, as stipulated in the act,  is too broad and a librarian may not have a real obligation to follow everything that is recommended in the code of ethics. During the electoral campaign of  the last May 5 National Assembly elections, it was reported  in the press that a few public officers were openly giving their support to party candidates. The name of one library executive was also cited. Is there any process for dealing with such ethical breaches? Is there any competent authority to deal with such breaches? What if the heads of these institutions are themselves involved? In the absence of any sanction against such public officers, the profession is bound to be tainted with a bad name. Does it make any sense to talk about professionalism in librarianship (in the local context) without any consequences for ethical breaches?

P. Hauroo