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The Canadian Federation of Library Associations/Fédération canadienne des associations de bibliothèques (CFLA-FCAB) is pleased to support Freedom to Read Week (February 26 to March 4). This annual event encourages Canadians to consider and celebrate their commitment to intellectual freedom, a pillar of democracy.

Intellectual freedom is a fundamental value for libraries. As the voice of the Canadian library community, CLFA-FCAB affirms that libraries have a responsibility to support, defend, and promote intellectual freedom. On February 1, 2017 the members of CFLA-FCAB endorsed the Statement on Intellectual Freedom and Libraries. It reads in part:

Libraries have a core responsibility to safeguard and facilitate access to constitutionally protected expressions of knowledge, imagination, ideas, and opinion, including those which some individuals and groups consider unconventional, unpopular or unacceptable…

Libraries provide, defend and promote equitable access to the widest possible variety of expressive content and resist calls for censorship and the adoption of systems that deny or restrict access to resources.

As part of our commitment to intellectual freedom, CFLA-FCAB supports the Annual Challenges Survey of materials and services challenged in Canadian libraries. Now in its 11th iteration, the Survey is conducted this year  under the auspices of CFLA-FCAB. The survey creates a national snapshot of the nature and outcome of challenges to intellectual freedom in publicly-funded Canadian libraries. By documenting and reporting these incidents, Canadian libraries demonstrate their commitment to public accountability and institutional transparency. The survey is open until March 31 and can be accessed here: http://cfla-fcab.ca/en/advocacy/2016-resources-and-policy-challenges-survey/

CFLA-FCAB has released a preliminary Survey report:  Inappropriate for Any Age – Ban It Forever! 2016 Annual Challenges Survey: Preliminary Report. The preliminary report is available in English only, but the final report will be issued in English and French.

To date, library staff in four provinces (BC, AB, ON, QC) have reported more than 30 challenges, to censor collections and resources, and access to services. All challenges were initiated in public libraries, primarily by library users. Complaints were primarily about explicit sexuality, violence, age appropriateness, or nudity in library materials, and complainants wanted those titles deemed objectionable, offensive, unsuitable, or otherwise unacceptable to be removed, restricted, relocated, or labelled. The majority of concerns were about books and DVDs intended for adults, with less than one-quarter targeting children’s or young adult materials, principally graphic novels and comics.

After review, library staff retained most of the targeted materials without change in status, but in one case staff withdrew an item; in a few cases items were relocated, labelled, or restricted in access. Every complaint was investigated and decisions were guided by thorough research and the Statement on Intellectual Freedom and Libraries.

For more information on the survey, please contact Alvin M. Schrader, Survey Administrator 2017, at alvin.schrader@ualberta.ca.

Freedom to Read Week is organized by the Book and Periodical Council.

Peter Bailey
Chair, CFLA-FCAB
pbailey@sapl.ca