This study analyzes codes of ethics, seen as documents, and their role in supporting the professional practice of librarianship. Theoretically it is placed within the scholarly discussion on the role and function of documents in various practices. Specific interest is directed towards the concept of ”performative documentality”. Empirically, the analysis is concentrated on one example, the Code of Ethics of the American Library Association (ALA). Both the immediate pre-history of this code, and its subsequent editions are described and analyzed in relation to the given theoretical position. Results show that the development ALA code of ethics corresponds to the ideas of professional practice in librarianship over time, from a clearly prescriptive function to a more open, legitimizing role. In theoretical terms ethical codes of librarianship can be said to illustrate the concept of performative doscumentality not only in relation to practices of librarianship, but also to libraries as such, seen as social institutions developing in correspondence to changes in social structures and attitudes, as well as organizational forms and technology.

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