Thursday, September 30, 2010

Howl at the EFF

Wow! I am cutting this announcement a little close (thanks so much to Carla for emailing about this film!)

The Edmonton Film Festival is screening Howl tonight at 7:15 at the Empire City Centre Theatre. It looks like a great film and deals with censorship of Ginsberg's famous work Howl.

James Franco stars as the young Allen Ginsberg - poet, counter-culture adventurer and chronicler of the Beat Generation. In his famously confessional, leave-nothing-out style, Ginsberg recounts the road trips, love affairs and search for personal liberation that led to the most timeless and electrifying work of his career, the poem HOWL.
Meanwhile, in a San Francisco courtroom, HOWL is on trial. Prosecutor Ralph McIntosh (David Strathairn) sets out to prove that the book should be banned, while suave defense attorney Jake Ehrlich (Jon Hamm) argues fervently for freedom of speech and creative expression. The proceedings veer from the comically absurd to the passionate as a host of unusual witnesses (Jeff Daniels, Mary-Louise Parker, Treat Williams, Alesssandro Nivola) pit generation against generation and art against fear.
From the filmmaking team that gave us The Celluloid Closet and The Times of Harvey Milk, HOWL is simultaneously a portrait of a renegade artist breaking down barriers to find love and redemption, and an imaginative, animated ride through a prophetic masterpiece.

Hope to see lots of FLIF-ers there!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

*UPDATE* "Operation Dark Heart" soon to hit the bestseller lists (thanks to the US Defense Dept)

According to a CNN update late last night the Pentagon has gone ahead and purchased the first run of nearly 10,000 copies and destroyed them on September 20th.
A second edition of the book is being released by the publisher (St. Martin's Press) with information the US government objected to removed.

I think the author's comment nicely sums up the ridiculous nature of this action by the Pentagon:

"The whole premise smacks of retaliation," Shaffer told CNN on Saturday. "Someone buying 10,000 books to suppress a story in this digital age is ludicrous."
I love Shaffer's comment about the futility of buying and burning books. This ridiculous situation just highlights how influential digital resources are in the free flow of information and how futile it is to try and stop the spread of information by burning books. Symbolically though this is an event to be angry about.
As we head into Banned Books Week in the US this is certainly a timely issue and I hope people make the effort to speak out about this kind of censorship.

 So, anyone know where we can access a digital copy for the first edition?


from the Washington Post (Sept 10, 2010)

Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer's memoir "Operation Dark Heart" is about to sell out it's first run of 10,000 copies as the US Defense Department hopes to keep the book out of the hands of readers by purchasing the entire printing. The entire first edition is slated to be destroyed if the Defense Department succeeds. 

The memoir recounts Shaffer's time as a reservist in Afghanistan in 2003 and describes several covert operations. The book was officially approved by the Army Reserve in early 2010, but objections to the use of the names of US officers among other details were raised after written approval had been granted.  

A second printing will have controversial information removed as agreed upon by Shaffer, the publisher and the Army Reserve/DIA representatives, but the fate of this first printing is undecided. Currently the first printing is sitting in a warehouse awaiting disposal by the Defense Dept. 

Quoting the Washington Post article:
"Several dozen review copies of the first edition have already been circulated to media outlets, including The Washington Post."

It is questionable what the Pentagon hopes to achieve by destroying this printing when the information has 'leaked' in the form of review copies. In light of the wikileaks debates, the value of information that is over five years old related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is controversial. Will this information potentially compromise military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, or is the danger in casting governments in a poor light? 

Interestingly (and timely on the 9th anniversary of September 11th), the author of this memoir, Anthony Shaffer is also known for "alleging before the 9/11 Commission and Congress that a covert Pentagon task force called "Able Danger" had identified Mohamed Atta, the lead hijacker in the Sept. 11 attacks, before the assaults on New York and the Pentagon. Shaffer's claim was later rejected by congressional investigators, among others. But he repeats the assertion in the book" (Finn, Peter & Greg Miller, Pentagon aims to buy up book. Washington Post online, Sept 10, 2010, accessed Sept 10, 2010.)

Friday, September 24, 2010

This guy thinks SPEAK is pornography

Remember last September, when the book banners crawled out of their pits of nastiness to try to remove YA literature from classrooms and libraries?
It is September again, my friends.
Wesley Scroggins is an associate professor of management at Missouri State University. He was also a speaker at Reclaiming Missouri for Christ, a recent seminar whose purpose was to “To educate our pastors, legislators, educators, students, and all citizens as to the truth about America’s Christian Heritage and the role of fundamental, Biblical Christianity in the establishment and function of our legal, legislative, and educational system, and to work towards the successful reestablishment of these values in our society.”
(Note: I love Jesus. My dad is a United Methodist minister. I point out Scroggins’ affiliation with this group so readers can understand his larger agenda.)
Wesley wrote an opinion piece in the News-Leader of Springfield, MO, in which he characterized SPEAK as filthy and immoral. Then he called it “soft pornography” because of two rape scenes.
The fact that he sees rape as sexually exciting (pornographic) is disturbing, if not horrifying. It gets worse, if that’s possible, when he goes on to completely mischaracterize the book.
Some people say that I shouldn’t make a big deal about this. That I am giving him more attention than he deserves. But this guy lives about an hour and half from the school district that banned Sherman Alexie’s THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN this month.
My fear is that good-hearted people in Scroggins’ community will read his piece and believe what he says. And then they will complain to the school board. And then the book will be pulled and then all those kids who might have found truth and support in the book will be denied that. In addition, all the kids who have healthy emotional lives but who hate reading, will miss the chance to enjoy a book that might change their opinion.
All because some wingnut grabbed the opinion page of his newspaper, bellowed his lies, and no one challenged him.
I have already received incredible support on Facebook and in my inbox. Paul Hankins, an English teacher from Indiana, has started a Twitterfeed -  #SpeakLoudly  – where people can tweet their opinions. And my hero, Judy Blume, wrote to say she is bringing this nonsense to the attention of the National Council Against Censorship.
(I must confess – receiving a message from Judy Blume made me shriek a little. I am such a fangrrl of hers.)
I love the support from the blogosphere, but am concerned that the people in Scroggins’ community who might be swayed by his nonsense are not reading those blogs or following Twitter feeds on the topic. So I am writing to the school district superintendent and to the newspaper. But I know (because I’ve been here before) that my comments will likely be greeted with scepticism because I have a vested interest in the process.
I need your help.
Please share your experiences with SPEAK; your own response to the book, or the way you’ve seen it work in a school setting. Tahleen has already posted her thoughts on her blog. You can do the same. Please share links to your blog in Comments.
But then, please speak up to the people who can make a real difference in Republic, MO.
You can submit a letter to the editor of the News-Leader.
You can write to the superintendent of the Republic School District, Dr. Vern Minor, or to the high school principal, Daren Harris.
You can comment directly to Scroggins’ opinion piece.
Here I am reading “Listen” the poem I wrote based on reader response to SPEAK.

Banned Books Week is only a few days away. Consider this your chance to get a head start on speaking up about a good book and defending the intellectual freedoms guaranteed us in our Constitution.

Reprinted with permission from Laurie Hales Anderson's awesome blog:

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Alaskan Libraries & Bookstore Sue Over Stifling New Law

From the Alaska Dispatch - Sept 15, 2010

Alaskan libraries and bookstores are concerned by the passing of Senate Bill 222 which proposes changes to state law to toughen human trafficking, sex offense and child pornography laws with increased jail time and broader allowances for police officers to pursue offenders. Specifically, Sean Parnell (Governor of Alaska) claimed that it would give the state's Internet Crimes Against Children unit "more tools to pursue those who view and engage in distribution of child pornography,"
After trying unsuccessfully to address concerns that this bill would infringe on first amendment rights with the governor, librarians and book store owners say they've got no choice but to sue. They argue the revised law criminalizes material adults have a constitutionally protected right to access -- literature, works of art, educational materials and any other items that may contain nudity or sexually explicit content. The way the amendment is currently written innocent people could face criminal charges including librarians and bookstore owners who stock materials that fall under these broad guidelines.

From the Alaska Dispatch article:

It's a situation in which a few small word changes may have sweeping consequences. SB 222 amended the prior censorship law, in part, by deleting the word "electronic" from references about distribution of material, and the word "visual" from references to how material is depicted. The plaintiffs believe those changes unacceptably widen the law's reach far beyond the Internet and the narrow situations -- sexual predators disseminating material to children -- that the law is meant to target.
Conceivably, a retailer selling unlawful materials to anyone under the age of 16 could end up a convicted felon, spend two years in jail, be forced to register as a sex offender, and lose their business, according to a prepared statement released by the plaintiffs' legal teams.

Alaskan librarians are concerned that the law could limit materials libraries could legally circulate including sex education materials, romance novels, fine art books, graphic novels and even best-sellers that deal with mature themes (like Stieg Larsson's popular Millennium Trilogy). The wording of this amendment makes all of the difference. Those involved in the suit against the state recognize that while protection of children is important, the bill needs to very specifically target illegal materials. Broad definitions of 'obscene materials' force libraries and other media providers to strictly moderate all of the materials they stock and post online to a point that is completely unsustainable. It is impossible to know the full content of all books, movies, music, magazines,etc that a library or book seller holds and moderating access online to block underage users is extremely difficult. 

Title Wave Books and Bosco's in Anchorage, Fireside Books in Palmer, Don Douglas Photography in Juneau, the Alaska Library Association and the Alaska office of the American Civil Liberties Union are among the local plaintiffs. They are joined by the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, Association of American Publishers, Inc., Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Entertainment Merchants Association and the Freedom to Read Foundation, which represent member organizations throughout the United States. All of these organizations are highly deserving of our support and sweeping legislative changes like these can have wide impacts that cannot always be predicted. Being vocal about infringement on the right to access information and materials, particularly when it is couched in seemingly altruistic and 'unquestionably good' causes like protecting vulnerable children, is critically important.

For more information on what you can do to help check out the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund - a great resource for information advocates.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Report Released: Challenges to Canadian Library Resources and Policies in 2009

The Canadian Library Association recently released their "Challenges to Canadian Library Resources and Policies in 2009: Report of the Annual Survey of the Advisory Committee on Intellectual Freedom." The report summarizes challenges to library material and provides a list of challenged material from 2009.  

From the Canadian Library Association, submitted by Alvin Schrader, on behalf of the CLA IFC, September 2010:

Findings of the 2009 survey show that challenges continue to occur in publicly funded Canadian libraries, clear evidence that attention to intellectual freedom remains central to the work of Canadian librarians and sister association advocates across the cultural network. CLA President Keith Walker notes: "Libraries play a crucial role in the protection of intellectual freedom and have to be prepared to support the right of Canadians to read what they choose. Freedom to read can never be taken for granted."

For the full report and list, please visit the Canadian Library Association.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

1st FLIF meeting of the year!

Our first FLIF meeting will be this Thursday, Sept 16th at 12:30 in Henderson Hall (in Rutherford South - if you are not a SLIS student who has a code to get into this room send me a message and I will make sure you can get in - flifblog @

We will be discussing some of the projects coming up this year and specifically looking to recruit volunteers for Homeless Connect, our first big event coming up in October.

If you cannot make the meeting, don't worry! We will post here on the blog what we discuss at the meeting.  If you would like to volunteer to man the free books table at Homeless Connect on Sunday, Oct 16th for an hour or two please send us an email or leave a comment here, or you can sign up on the schedule we will post in the SLIS lounge after the meeting this Thursday.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Harper Government Censoring Canadian Scientists

Story via Slashdot, via the Vancouver Sun

This very disturbing story was printed today in the Vancouver Sun and picked up by Slashdot online:

"The Harper government has tightened the muzzle on federal scientists, going so far as to control when and what they can say about floods at the end of the last ice age. Natural Resources Canada scientists were told this spring they need 'pre-approval' from Minister Christian Paradis' office to speak with journalists. Their 'media lines' also need ministerial approval, say documents obtained by Postmedia News through access-to-information legislation. The documents say the 'new' rules went into force in March and reveal how they apply not only to contentious issues, including the oilsands, but benign subjects such as floods that occurred 13,000 years ago. They also give a glimpse of how Canadians are being cut off from scientists whose work is financed by taxpayers, critics say, and is often of significant public interest — be it about fish stocks, genetically modified crops or mercury pollution in the Athabasca River."

This kind of tight control over scientific research damages collegial relationships and cast a very poor light on the current Conservative government. Coming from a university with a heavy focus on research and contributing to larger bodies of knowledge this kind of 'government editing' seems ridiculous at best and outright censorship at worst.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

GELA Prison Project - Remand Centre Wishlist

The GELA Prison Project posts wishlists for books from inmates at the Edmonton Remand Centre. FLIF would like to more actively contribute to this project in the upcoming year through book drives and fundraising to be able to purchase new books for this group. If you have any of the following materials you would like to donate to the GELA Prison Project (or would like to support this project with a monetary donation) please leave a comment here, email us at flifblog @, or drop off labelled donations on the bookshelf in the SLIS lounge in Rutherford South on the U of A campus.

The latest wishlist includes:

  • recent non-fiction
  • advanced education, career development
  • self help
  • human psychology
  • life stories of criminals who have turned their lives around
  • life stories of people with difficult childhoods who have persevered
  • inspirational/religious books
  • horror, spy and suspense novels
  • life stories of Aboriginal people
  • bestsellers
  • National Geographic magazines

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

10 Rules for Radicals

This is a fantastic video of the keynote speech that archivist Carl Malamud gave at the 19th World Wide Web Consortium conference this year. He outlines ten useful (and hilarious) rules for people who want to follow in his foot steps of working to make information open and accessible. 

As Cory Doctorow of  BoingBoing writes: 
"It's all so engagingly written, and so useful, that it is truly a must-read for anyone interested in the history or future of universal access, open networks and free societies."

 I couldn't agree more, and highly (highly!) recommend following the link at the top of this page to read a copy of the speech or watch the full video embedded at the link. 

FLIF is on Twitter!

FLIF is now on Twitter - come and join the sound-bite discussion. We will be tweeting throughout orientation week, looking forward to meeting the new group of students at the orientation lunch today.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Welcome Back Proto-Librarians!

As we get ready to begin a new semester at the University of Alberta's School of Library and Information Studies, we would like to welcome back returning students and introduce ourselves to the new cohort joining SLIS this year.

New York Public Library archives

We have a bunch of exciting projects planned for the upcoming year and are looking to recruit members who are interested in discussing issues of intellectual freedom, doing community outreach regarding access to information and promoting the school to the wider community. We would like to have a meeting early in September to introduce ourselves in person and describe some of the events and project we have planned for the Fall semester.

We will be looking for volunteers to help out with several of our continuing projects that are an excellent opportunity to get involved in the library community in Edmonton and learn more about intellectual freedom and access to information in our city. Briefly, a few of our major initiatives are:

Community Bookshelf:
This is a project that FLIF has recently assumed full responsibility for, but was initiated by and is supported by GELA (Greater Edmonton Library Association). FLIF volunteers pick up books generously donated by local libraries, book drives, and personal donors. Special thanks goes to Edmonton Public Library, Stony Plain Public Library, Leduc Public Library and the Greater Edmonton Library Association’s Women’s Prison subcommittee. FLIF members sort, package and deliver books to several organizations in Edmonton including the Bissel Centre, Boyle Street Mission, HIV Edmonton and Operation Friendship. We need volunteers to help load books at the main library and unload them on campus as well as sor books based on requests from our member organizations and deliver boxes of books to the organizations a few times each semester.
We would like to have a big book sorting party in SLIS to organize some deliveries of donations that are currently being stored on campus. This would be a great opportunity to find out more about FLIF and meet other students interested in volunteering and supporting access to information in our community. Please leave us a comment here or send an email to flifblog @ if you are interested in participating.

Homeless Connect:
Homeless Connect is a bi-annual event that takes place at Shaw Conference Centre in downtown Edmonton in May and October each year.
Homeless Connect Edmonton is a broad-based community-inspired initiative, providing free appropriate services to homeless people and those at risk of becoming homeless, on one day and at one location.
Its mission is to provide services that help open doors out of homelessness, build lasting partnerships , raise public awareness of homelessness in the community, and provide a vehicle for community involvement in addressing the issue of homelessness.
Services include mental health assessments, library services, foot care, haircuts, immunizations, birth control, pre-natal support, laundry, housing information, employment and training services and much more.
Homeless Connect
The next event will take place on Sunday October 17th, 2010 and we are looking for volunteers for one to two hour shifts throughout the day. Our role at this event is to set up a table of free books donated by EPL and to keep it stocked and organized throughout the day. This is one of our largest events during the year and is a great opportunity to reach out to the community and learn about barriers to information and services that many Edmonton citizens face. 
If you would like to volunteer for this event which runs from 10 am (set up starts at 9am) until 3pm on Sunday October 17th please let us know by leaving a comment here or sending an email to flifblog @

Freedom to Read Week:
Freedom to Read Week isn't until March of 2011, but it is one of the biggest events in the FLIF calendar. We set up a display of banned and challenged materials in HUB, raise funds for the GELA prison projects by selling awesome buttons, use Book Crossing to drop banned and challenged books throughout the city along with information on freedom of information, and participate in EPL events like the Banned Book Cafe. This year we would like to expand our Freedom to Read Week events and are open to suggestions from the FLIF and SLIS community. 
We always need lots of volunteers for Freedom to Read Week to make buttons, man the banned books table, represent SLIS and FLIF at EPL events and generally spread the word about how important access to information and Freedom to Read is. Mark February 20th - 26th, 2011 on your calendar now! 

FLIF is also involved with the GELA Edmonton Institution For Women library including inmate book clubs and a storybook project where women can record themselves reading aloud, and their recording is sent to their children. Additionally we hope to get involved with some new projects including working with APIRG on a library of banned and challenged books as well as getting more involved with the library at the Boyle Street Mission.
We are always open to suggestions for events or new projects that fit FLIF's mandate of supporting access to information and intellectual freedom.
If you would like to attend a FLIF meeting or get involved this year please leave a comment on this post or send us an email at flifblog @
We will try to pick a time that works for everyone to get together and start planning of an exciting year. 

Your FLIF co-chairs, 
Shannon & Jorden