The Librarian’s Oath

May 9, 2010

Last spring during my Seminar on Intellectual Freedom, Shellie and I were discussing how librarianship doesn’t have a professional organization that controls licenses to practice and that while we have the ALA Code of Ethics (and the Library Bill of Rights and the Freedom to Read Statement and lots of other statements from the Office of Intellectual Freedom), there isn’t an oath we have to take to become librarians like (for example) doctors do.

So once we started nearing graduation, I took the general structure of the Hippocratic Oath and filled in that framework with content from the ALA Code of Ethics and did a little tweaking and came up with a Librarian’s Oath:

The Librarian’s Oath
I swear by Seshat the scribe, Athena, Sophia, and Nidaba, and all the gods and goddesses, making them my witness, that I will fulfill according to my ability and judgment this oath and covenant:

I will not advance private interests at the expense of library users, colleagues, or my employing institution.

But I will provide the highest level of service to all library users and ensure equitable, unbiased access to materials and services, recognizing that a person’s right to use the library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.

I will respect intellectual property rights and support balance between the interests of information users and rights holders.

I will uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources.

All that may come to my knowledge in the exercise of my profession which ought not to be spread abroad, I will keep secret and will never reveal.

In all aspects of my work I will strive for excellence and will maintain and enhance my knowledge and skills. I will support the professional development of my colleagues. I will encourage the aspirations of potential members of the profession.

Both at work and in the community, I will be an advocate for the library and I will champion libraries and my fellow librarians.

If I keep this oath faithfully, may I enjoy my life and practice my art, respected by all people and in all times; but if I swerve from it or violate it, may the reverse be my lot.

Professor Japzon (Andrea, that is) administered the Oath to a group of us after graduation today; we raised our right hands and recited it in unison (Shellie and I also held a copy of the Intellectual Freedom Manual). It turned out to be a little long for a public recitation, but I really enjoyed being sworn in and made an official librarian by someone in the field. Along with all of the academic regalia and ceremony and tradition of the day, it made for a very official-feeling way to officially join the ranks of the profession.

So now I’m a real, MLS-holding, Oath-swearing librarian!

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7 Comments Leave a Comment

  • 1. K.S.Panchakshari  |  May 11, 2010 at 5:26 AM

    I am very proud to read this oath of LIS. Before itself I I never heard / read the Oath for Library Proffessional. I will try to circulate/ transferthis to my LIS friends.

    Kindly give the meaning of this – “Seshat the scribe, Athena, Sophia, and Nidaba”.

    Thank you

    with regards

    K.S.Panchakshari
    Senior Librarian
    Agadi Engineering College,
    Karnataka.

  • 2. Gretchen  |  May 11, 2010 at 8:47 AM

    The original Hippocratic Oath invokes gods and goddesses of medicine and healing, so when I wrote the Librarian’s Oath, I invoked goddesses of wisdom, knowledge, reading, and writing.

    I’m glad you like the Oath, but I should emphasize that this isn’t official in any way; it’s just a fun thing I wrote up to mark our graduation and entry into the profession.

  • 3. Librarified » Misce&hellip  |  May 17, 2010 at 7:48 PM

    […] on Facebook; one of my classmates’ cake included a bookcart, and fellow SLIS-Indy alumna and Oath swearer Shellie had a cake at her graduation party that was just books books books: Shellie's graduation […]

  • 4. Dacia  |  June 14, 2011 at 3:55 PM

    Awesome. I always joke that the Librarian Code requires me to help all who search for information. Glad you actually wrote one! I’m totally posting this on my desk. :)

  • 5. Melissa  |  June 16, 2011 at 1:03 PM

    You could call it the Callimachian Oath, after the creator of the first library catalog of the Library of Alexandria (too nerdy?).

  • 6. Gretchen  |  June 17, 2011 at 4:01 PM

    @Melissa: are you kidding me? That’s *awesome!* There’s no such thing as too nerdy. :)

  • 7. Why should I trust you? Y&hellip  |  February 28, 2017 at 6:27 AM

    […] but I don’t recall ever coming across the library version of the Hippocratic Oath. (Turns out someone invented one.) Thankfully, malpractice lawsuits against librarians aren’t really a thing. But what, […]

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