Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Freedom to read the news

Freedom to read doesn't just encompass books, we also have the freedom to read the news, blogs, web-sites, and so on. News is one of those things that often contentious - on one hand we want to know what's happening, but on the other hand we don't always want on the gory details being broadcasted.

For example, the recent Pickton trial coverage resulted in a lot of talk about what's enough and what's too much.

But, sometimes we don't even get a chance to be offended or worried, because the news is censored from us. made a list of the Top 25 Censored Stories of 2007. Take a look and see if there's anything of interest to you on the list.

More challenged books

Bookslut, a must-have site for all book lovers (tsk, no, it is not a naughty site), has a great page that lists some challenged books and some of the reasons why they were challenged. It also notes that for every reported challenge, there are 4 or 5 unreported challenges.

Another great resource is the Alibris site (it's like Chapters, but for independent new and used book sellers). They have a list (with reasons why) of banned children's books and a list of books that were banned for political reasons. They even have a list of frequently challenged authors (with links to their books).

Keep reading those banned books!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

More Freedom to Read Week

"An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all." -Oscar Wilde

"Free societies... are societies in motion, and with motion comes tension, dissent, friction. Free people strike sparks, and those sparks are the best evidence of freedom's existence." -Salman Rushdie

"Every burned book enlightens the world." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

"If your library is not 'unsafe', it probably isn't doing its job." -John Berry, Library Journal, October 1999
Project Censored is a website that collects, as they put it, "the news that didn't make the news." Their main page features a list of the 25 most-censored news stories of 2007.

An interesting project that uses technology to ensure intellectual freedom: psiphon, which lets internet users in uncensored countries provide uncensored internet access to others who are not so lucky.

More book bans and challenges from The Forbidden Library.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to our on-going effort to staff a table in HUB. I have uploaded some photos of the table to flickr. If anyone else has photos from this week, please tag them "slisfreedomtoread" so we can keep them all together.


100 most frequently challenged books of 1990-2000

Today I want to introduce you to the American Library Association's list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000. After compiling challenged from across the country, they create this list for our enjoyment.

Some of the books on the list won't surprise you at all. For example:
But, there are some that at first glance seem really out of place, like:

James and the Giant Peach was challenged because of it's portrayal of child abuse (among other things - click on the link above to see some of challenges it has faced). At the beginning of the book, James is abused by his two evil aunts who take custody of him after his parents die in a bizarre accident. Though I agree that reading about an abused child is sad, the majority of the book is about his adventures in a giant peach. And, it has a happy ending.

Where's Waldo? has been challenged because of one of its intricately drawn characters - apparently there is a wee tiny little topless sunbather in one of the books.

At the top of the list, there's a great quote by Judy Blume, who is on the list *5* times:
“[I]t's not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers.”

She has a point. People won't write books if they think that they will be banned (it would be a waste of time) and youth have the misfortune of having well meaning parents, teachers and community leaders decide what is appropriate for them. I thank my lucky stars that I was one of the fortunate kids - my parents challenged me to think outside the box, and they weren't afraid of a wee little topless sunbather.

ALA also has a list of the most challenged books between 2000 and 2005, which includes the Harry Potter series and yet another Judy Blume (hmm, I'm starting the get the feeling that I should read some of her books).

Happy Freedom to Read week!!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Freedom to Read week

Happy Freedom to Read week. Please take a moment to check out the Freedom to Read web-site. They have a whole section dedicated to this week as well as a challenged books page which provides a list of 100 books that have been banned or challenged over the past few decades.

Some highlights from the list include the following:

The Bible was challenged in Saskatchewan because it could promote hatred towards homosexuals.

Daddy's Roommate was challenged for being a bad role model for children.

Harry Potter books
have been challenged because it was felt that the witchcraft, wizardry and magic making are inappropriate for young readers.

Of Mice and Men have been challenged for taking God's name in vain numerous times and for having no educational benefit.

Banned Books Challenge

The Pelham Public Library (Fonthill, Ontario) is challenging you to read as many banned books as you can (or want to) between February 26th and June 30th. Not sure what to read? There are almost as many banned books lists as there are banned books. When you visit their blog you can check out the lists that they have compiled of books that have been banned or challenged from 2006 and 2007, as well as many other lists (on the sidebar at the left).

They also have an extensive list of interesting links on the sidebar.

Freedom to read and beyond

This week is Freedom to Read week, the week where we celebrate the ability to read books without censorship.

You might be thinking, "But, Anne, we're in Canada. That doesn't happen here." But, it does. Books are routinely challenged by parents, community leaders, and the customs officers at the border. We may live in a free and democratic society, but that doesn't mean that we don't have to worry about censorship. Many forget that we are a very diverse country - we are home to multiple groups of people with differing religions, values, cultures, and so on. Inevitably, there will be a book that I think is great, but that you think is offensive.

Though I may have the right to access what ever book or intellectual property that I want (assuming that it is not illegal, like child pornography), you have the right to be offended by it and complain about it. The problem lies with giving the people who support the content access to it. While any library would love to be able to make all of its patrons happy, sometimes you have to say no to removing or banning a book just because one person or group finds it offensive. The idea is that if they don't like it, then they don't have to read it.

And, what about outside of Canada. Many countries are very intolerant of content that they find questionable. And, when I say "questionable" I mean anything from comments that are against the beliefs of the prevailing religion (or the religion in power) to comments that offend the leader (heaven forbid someone question a leader's actions). The Guardian recently reported that an Egyptian blogger was jailed for insulting Islam and President Hosni Mubarak. And, it's not just officials who are infringing on peoples freedoms. In a recent IFLA listserv posting, it was reported that (a Chinese portal and blog-hosting service) has been censoring blog posts by bloggers on its system.

These examples may not seem to be directly related to our freedom to read, but if you can't access a blog post or if the creator of the blog is jailed, you lose your right to read what they have to say. Freedom to read is tied directly to freedom of expression.

So, celebrate your right to read whatever you want. Find a book that has been banned or challenged and devour it. Try to guess how many of your favourite books have been banned or challenged somewhere. And, above all, count yourself as being one of the lucky ones - you won't get jailed for calling Stephen Harper a nitwit.

- anne

Banned Book Cafe

This week the Edmonton Public Library will be celebrating Freedom to Read week by hosting a Banned Books Cafe on Thursday night form 7-9PM at the Stanley A Milner branch.

There will be open mic readings of banned/challenged books, and everyone is welcome to take a moment to read a short passage form your favourite banned/challenged book.

I have class on Thursday nights (booo), but I encourage the rest of you to at least show up and support the right to read whatever the heck you want to read.

For more information, see EPL's Banned Books Cafe web-page.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Illegal Art

Illegal art, a digital exhibit/intersection between issues of intellectual property, creativity, and access.

The Illegal Art Exhibit will celebrate what is rapidly becoming the "degenerate art" of a corporate age: art and ideas on the legal fringes of intellectual property. Some of the pieces in the show have eluded lawyers; others have had to appear in court.

Loaded with gray areas, intellectual property law inevitably has a silencing effect, discouraging the creation of new works.

Should artists be allowed to use copyrighted materials? Where do the First Amendment and "intellectual property" law collide? What is art's future if the current laws are allowed to stand? Stay Free! considers these questions and others in our multimedia program. -- Carrie McLaren

Network Neutrality Basics

If you've never heard of the concept of network neutrality before, have a quick look at this informative video hosted by Youtube and produced by

While the video itself is United States centric, the basic concept has transnational applications.

Video: Network Neutrality

After watching the video, you may want to check out the varying high speed services offered by your very own internet service provider!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

More Scrotal Controversy...

Author Neil Gaiman posts his reaction to the school library censorship of Susan Patron's The Higher Power of Lucky. Gaiman sharply, humourously illustrates the absurdity of using the presence or absence of the word "scrotum" to distinguish between quality literature and "other" literature.

He also points to an excellent list of children's literature which also contains the word scrotum. Educational!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

CBC Radio censorship series

"Censor This! is a series of provocative documentaries, news features and interviews that explore some of the issues around music and censorship."

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Another day, another censored book

I would like it to be on the record that despite having a science background, this will be the first time I have ever had the chance to say "scrotum" in a professional setting: scrotum. Tee hee, that was fun!

See here for my brief, but passionate thoughts on the banning of the book "The Higher Power of Lucky".

- anne

Friday, February 16, 2007

Even the LC has intellectual freedom issues

Library Juice posted a long letter about issues at the LC. LC is trying to force the union describe specifics of what people say in the Guild office. This would give them access to who is saying what, which means that Guild members would be less likely to voice their honest opinion and that the LC has access to information which they could use to discriminate against workers (or, at very least labe them as trouble makers).

Anyway, it's an interesting read and reminds us that intellectual freedom issues come attached to our paycheques.
For me, intellectual freedom not only encompasses the right to think and say what you want, but also the right to access information. Access to information is necessary - it gives us the ability to learn and to gather information that could show us the truth.

For those of you who don't know me well, I'm a marine biologist and an animal rights activist (amongst other things). Way back in the good old days of marine biology classes, I learned about seal hunting and why the reasons for allowing seal hunting were flawed. Seals were not the cause of the cod stock collapse, nor were they impeding the recovering of stocks - that was our fault. And, hunters did not rely on seal pelts to survive another year, they could and did make more money with other endeavers. Politicians and hunters just wanted us to think that so that we would feel bad and let them hunt more seals.

These falsities and truths came out because of access to information. However, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is now trying to impede out rights to access information by increasing the observation distance (the distance observers have to be from the hunters). The current distance is 10 metres - DFO wants it to be 20 metres. This poses a problem because it would be very difficult, and at times impossible, to record the hunt. Recording the hunt shows the truth and provides access to information that most people would not have (let's face it, not many people are going to go there for their vacation).

So, observers have to keep their distance from hunters. But, and here is where injustice takes a nasty swing at us, the hunters are not required to keep any distance from observers. A drafted protest letter from the Animal Alliance of Canada states that:

"As a result, observers are regularly physically assaulted on the ice by sealers, charged at on snowmobiles, having their inflatable crafts rammed by sealing boats, etc. The only violence directed at people during the seal hunt is always committed by sealers upon observers."

To add insult to injury, the seal hunt happens in public space and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees us the right to observe and record the hunt.

So, even if you don't care about the seals (tsk!tsk!), you should care about the right to observe, record and access *truthful* information about the seal hunt. As future librarians access to information and peoples rights to the truth are very important, and we need to understand that attacks on these do not always happen within a library context (when was the last time you saw a seal hunt in your local library). As such, sometimes we need to fight the fight outside of the library.

- anne

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Video: "Protecting Privacy, Challenging Secrecy, and Standing Up for the First Amendment" a discussion marking Banned Books week.

My internet connection isn't fast enough to watch it, but I have read a number of blog entries about it and how interesting it is.

Debit instead of cheques

This is neat. People on welfare are getting a change to be able to have better control over their money and not be singled out just because they don't have an account: Debit cards replace Alberta welfare cheques

Friday, February 09, 2007

British Library funding cuts

From Dr Margaret Mackey:

I am sure most of you are aware of the budget cuts the government is proposing to impose on the British Library. According to a press release on the BL website, these cuts may force the library to start charging for users to access the collections (see:

If you think, as I do, that this is a really bad idea - please sign the online petition:

And do tell your friends to sign it too!

According to their website, the BL is actively campaigning against the proposed cuts and Lynne Brindley has asked those who feel strongly about this issue to contact the library and explain "why the British Library is important to you and give us permission to use your letter in our campaign.

Please e-mail with your name, contact number and message, or write to Lynne Brindley, Chief Executive, The British Library, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB."

So if you have five minutes to spare, do send an e-mail or letter too.

Hate literacy on Google

From our SLIS pres:

Here's a story that's making the rounds. Rock the Vote wanted to commemorate Martin Luther King Day on its website. Unfortunately its webmaster chose to highlight one of the top-ranked Google search results without evaluating the website. The website,, is actually hate literature from white supremacist group StormFront.

The authors of this blog post do discuss what they call Google's "democracy algorithm," the idea that we vote with our clicks. But aside from advising "hate-opponents" to avoid "misguided links," the authors largely ignore the information literacy issue that supercedes the Google issue.

ALA recognizes the need to protect everyone, regardless of nationality

This is over a week old, but it power is timeless:

[Recently] during ALA Council III was passed a Resolution in Support of Immigrants Rights: "Resolved, that ALA strongly supports the protection of each person's civil liberties regardless of that individual's nationality, residency, or status; and be it further resolved that ALA opposes any legislation that infringes on the rights of anyone in the USA (citizen or otherwise) to use library resources on national, state, and local levels."

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Baghdad librarian

This is both fascinating and depressing at the same time - Baghdad Day to Day: Librarian’s Journal.

Source: Forwarded to the SLIS listserv by KM

Students rally for access to publically funded research

An interesting article:

February 1, 2007

Campuses declare "National Day of Action" in support of federal legislation

WASHINGTON, DC - February 1, 2007 -, the international student movement for free culture, in collaboration with the Alliance for Taxpayer Access (ATA), today announced that February 15, 2007 will be a "National Day of Action" for students that support open sharing of scientific and scholarly research findings on the Internet. Events nationwide will highlight the importance of taxpayer access to publicly funded research and rally support for Congressional passage of the Federal Research Public Access Act. The day also marks the fifth
anniversary of the landmark Budapest Open Access Initiative, when the worldwide open access movement first took form, and will be supported by the launch of a new Web resource and petition for public access, produced jointly by and the ATA.

The Federal Research Public Access Act was introduced last year by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and is awaiting reintroduction in the 110th Congress. The bill would require federal agencies that fund over $100 million in annual external research to make manuscripts of peer-reviewed journal articles stemming from that
research publicly available via the Internet. (For further information about the legislation, see http:// It is estimated that approximately half of the research conducted at universities is government funded. and its 36 chapters nationwide joins 72 other members of the ATA, 132 university and college presidents and provosts, and thousands of taxpayers, patients, researchers, and librarians that have voiced support for the legislation.

"Students are researchers, and were among the first groups to recognize the vast benefits of open access," said Gavin Baker, director of's Open Access project and author of a University of Florida student senate resolution in support of the Cornyn-Lieberman public access bill ( "Since many of their professors, advisors, and colleagues have conducted their work with the benefit of federal grants, it makes
sense that this work should be freely circulated and built upon. Students have coordinated their efforts on a national level to formalize their strong belief that public access to research is the way to move forward."

"Improving access to government-funded research results is critical to advancing science," said David Minh, a University of California San Diego graduate student who serves on the coordinating committee for Universities Allied for Essential Medicines. "Public access to research will not only benefit students and researchers in the United States, but will also empower scientists in the developing world - who have far fewer resources available to them - to accelerate the pace of biomedical research, particularly in neglected diseases."

"Students adding their considerable energy and significant weight to the momentum behind the issue is yet another sign of the strength and breadth of support for public access to research results," said Heather Joseph, Executive Director of SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, founder of the ATA). "We encourage universities, libraries, researchers, scholarly societies, patient organizations, and consumer groups to support student researchers in making the National Day of Action a success."

Campuses nationwide will be announcing individual events and support for the National Day of Action in the coming weeks. For more information, please visit the for Taxpayer Access student resource at


The Alliance for Taxpayer Access is a coalition of patient, academic, research, and publishing entities that support free public access to the results of federally funded research and advocate passage of the Federal Research Public Access Act. The Alliance was formed in 2004 to urge that peer-reviewed articles stemming from taxpayer-funded research become fully accessible and available online at no extra cost to the American public. Details on the ATA may be found at

Source: CLA student listserv, forwarded from the SPARC Open Access Forum

Stealing intellectual property

There's a really big problem in Afganistan ... I mean, aside from the whole war and people dying thing. People are stealing museum artifacts and trying to sell them to foreign museums. I'm offended by this, but then I can't help thinking that I'm being a bit hypocritical as a white North American. We've been stealing artifacts for centuries. Both domestically (First Nation art) and internationally (ex, Egyptian artifacts). I remember reading a few years ago about museums taking responsibility for their stolen goods and returning some to their country of origin, but are we doing enough? Should we maybe compensate them for our actions? I don't have the answer, at least in part because I don't really know enough of the facts. But, it's something to think about next time you visit a museum.

Censoring kids computer use in libraries

There's an interesting conversation happening on the library_grrls LiveJournal community about what to do about young girls using library computers to bully others via e-mail. Someone asked what others would recommend and there are some interesting ideas about censorship and how much to censor, etc. It's a bit dry part way down, but I encourage you to read all the way through. The last poster (as of two minutes ago) made some very good points about how if it's not something we would stop adults doing, then we shouldn't stop kids from doing it because we're not their parents.