Statement of Principles of The American Society of Access Professionals

All professions demand the highest qualities of integrity from their members. They require active adherence to ethical standards and moral responsibilities in addition to judgment, intellect, and technical competence. This statement of principles is intended to serve as a guide to the everyday conduct of access professionals having responsibility to:

  • facilitate and advance effective methods, procedures, and techniques of administering statutes pertaining to the availability of records or information contained therein or open meetings;
  • promote improved liaison, communication, and education among persons whose positions require an understanding of such statutes, sometimes called "access laws" (i.e., freedom of information, privacy protection, sunshine, fair credit reporting, etc.);
  • enhance understanding and appreciation of principles of fair information practice;
  • promote and facilitate citizen observation of and participation in government decision making through open official meetings or hearings; and
  • cooperate with government agencies, private organizations, and legislative committees in seeking creative solutions to problems inherent in such laws or legislative proposals.

An access professional is a person who:

  • administers access laws by performing such functions as evaluating, selecting, or determining the information to be accessed; safeguarding information from unfair or illegal uses; advising on the accessibility of information; or adjudicating cases involving legal rights of access to information;
  • uses access laws in performing such functions as writing or some other journalistic endeavor which relies upon access to information covered by legal restraints; teaching about the laws, principles, practices, and regulations pertaining to information sciences; or representing the interests of those who claim rights of access to information;
  • promotes principles of fair information practice by performing such functions as encouraging the uniform administration of access laws; suggesting legislative or administrative changes regarding such laws; or testifying to facts which can lead to improved information practices; or
  • promotes citizen participation in government decision making by administering open meetings laws.

Expressed here are standards of ethical behavior for access professionals in their relationships with those served, with colleagues, with employers, with other individuals and professions, and with society as a whole. In itself, this statement of principles does not represent a set of rules that will prescribe all the behaviors of access professionals in all the complexities of professional life. Rather, it offers general principles to guide conduct, and the judicious appraisal of conduct, in situations that have ethical implications. It provides the basis for making judgments about ethical actions before and after they occur.

The ethical behavior of access professionals results not from edict, but from a personal commitment of the individual. This statement of principles is offered to affirm the intent of all access professionals to be ethical and to act ethically in all they do as access professionals.

  1. Individual Conduct and Comportment as an Access Professional

    1. The private conduct of the access professional should exemplify the tenets of this statement of principles.
    2. The access professional should not engage in, condone, or facilitate dishonesty, fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, or other corrupt practices.
    3. The access professional should distinguish clearly between statements and actions made as a private individual and as a representative of the access profession or an organization or group.
    4. The access professional should not misrepresent professional qualifications, education, experience, or affiliations.
    5. The access professional should accept responsibility for his or her actions.
    6. The access professional engaged in study and research should be guided by the conventions of scholarly inquiry.
    7. The access professional should seek to extend public knowledge and appreciation of the profession and its achievements.

  2. Ethical Responsibility to Clients

    1. The access professional should serve clients with determination, honesty, and the maximum application of professional skill and competence.
    2. The access professional should not exploit clients for personal advantage.
    3. The access professional should not practice, condone, or facilitate any form of discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, age, religion, national origin, marital status, political belief or affiliation, mental or physical handicap, or any other preference or personal characteristic, condition or status.
    4. The access professional should seek to keep currently and continuously informed about matters and developments bearing upon the capacity to assist clients in the best possible ways.
    5. The access professional should accord to every person who properly presents a claim of legal rights of access, or to an attorney representing such a person, full right to be heard according to law and to receive a timely and impartial determination without improper influence or coercion and free from self interest and bias.

  3. Ethical Responsibility to Colleagues

    1. The access professional should treat fairly all colleagues and co-workers, regardless of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, age, religion, national origin, marital status, political belief or affiliation, mental or physical handicap, or duties.
    2. The access professional should encourage colleagues and co-workers to act in accordance with this statement of principles and support them when they do so.
    3. The access professional should assist colleagues and co-workers in their professional development.
    4. The access professional who has the responsibility for employing and evaluating the performance of other staff members should fulfill such responsibility in a fair, considerate, and equitable manner, on the basis of clear and specific criteria.
    5. The access professional who has the responsibility for evaluating the performance of employees, supervisors, or students should share evaluations with them.

  4. Ethical Responsibility to Employers and Employing Organizations

    1. The access professional should strive to improve the employing organization's policies and procedures, and the efficiency and effectiveness of its services.
    2. The access professional should not accept employment in an organization which clearly violates standards of fair employment practice.
    3. The access professional should act to prevent and eliminate discrimination in the employing organization's work assignments and in its employment policies and practices.
    4. The access professional should use with scrupulous regard, and only for the purposes for which they are intended, the resources of the employing organization.
    5. When in government service, the access professional should never discriminate unfairly by dispensing special favors or privileges to anyone, whether for remuneration or not; and should never accept, for self or family, favors or benefits under circumstances which might be construed by reasonable persons as influencing the performance of governmental duties.
    6. When in government service, an access professional should never use any information coming to him or her confidentially in the performance of governmental duties as a means for private profit.

  5. Ethical Responsibility to Profession and Society

    1. The access professional should protect and enhance the dignity and integrity of the profession, and should be responsible and vigorous in discussion and criticism of the profession.
    2. The access professional should contribute time and professional expertise to activities that promote respect for the utility, the integrity, and the competence of the access profession.
    3. The access professional should support the formulation, development, enactment, and implementation of social policies of concern to the profession.
    4. The access professional should base practice upon recognized knowledge relevant to the profession, and should critically examine, and keep current with, emerging knowledge relevant to the profession.
    5. The access professional should seek to promote public knowledge about the resources, services and opportunities available through the access profession.

As members of the American Society of Access Professionals, access professionals are expected to abide by this statement of principles. They should also take adequate measures to discourage, prevent, and correct the unethical conduct of colleagues. They should be equally ready, as well, to defend and assist colleagues unjustly charged with unethical conduct.

This statement of principles should not be used as an instrument to deprive any access professional of the opportunity or freedom to practice with complete professional integrity. The maintenance, interpretation, and application of this statement of principles are the responsibilities of the ASAP Committee on Professional Rights, Standards, and Responsibilities working through the ASAP Board of Directors, which is the final authority regarding its status and content. Modification and amendment of this statement of principles shall be made in the same manner that resulted in its original adoption.

Approved July 10, 1985 by
ASAP Board of Directors