February 25-March 8 is Freedom to Read Week.

February 25-March 8 is Freedom to Read Week. Check out www.freedomtoread.ca for more information.

Should library collections reflect community values? Should groups with extreme political views be permitted to use library meeting space? Are accuracy and truth important factors in selecting library materials?

It is comforting to think that truth and accuracy can be readily determined through diligent fact-checking, but the reality is more complex.

Consider, for example, a book about that is claimed to mischaracterize the beliefs of a particular cultural group or community. While sympathetic to the issue of cultural appropriation and misrepresentation, I would question whether or not we can precisely circumscribe the beliefs of a community of individuals, and why we should not consider unorthodox beliefs, even unpopular beliefs, as also potentially belonging to the community in question.

Furthermore, even where there is a strong consensus that a particular book’s presentation of facts is inaccurate or misleading, these misrepresentations can themselves illuminate certain beliefs or prejudices that were in circulation at the time of writing. That is, they reflect meaningfully on the author and the society in which he or she lived.

Exposure to a diverse range of ideas is an important aspect of becoming intellectually and socially mature. It is not enough to be told the “right way” to think. The human mind is driven by curiosity and will inevitably seek out alternatives. Indeed, we must explore and ultimately discard many alternative ways of thinking in the process of developing our own intellectual and social identity. For this reason, library collections and policies should always prioritize diversity over “community values”.

Toronto Public Library recently succumbed to public pressure by enacting a meeting room booking policy that prohibits bookings whose “purpose…is likely to promote, or would have the effect of promoting, discrimination, contempt or hatred of any group hatred for any person on the basis of race, ethnic origin, place of origin, citizenship, [etc.]”.

In my opinion, the mission of the library is not to endorse particular ideas, but to provide access to a wide range of ideas. Insofar as TPL’s new policy places the burden on library staff to distinguish between approved ideas and non-approved ideas, the policy is contrary to the mission of the public library.

Censorship does not eliminate ideas, but only forces ideas underground where they gain even more cachet than if they were examined in the light of day. In the long run, convincing others of the truth of your point of view is a more effective strategy than censoring one’s opponents.

Librarians are frequently pictured as humble folk who love books and quiet places. Perhaps it’s time to revise this image.

Just think of us as your friendly, neighbourhood “intellectual freedom fighters”. After all, who else is going to stand up for your right to free access to information and to voice unpopular opinions?

Aaron Francis is the Chief Librarian at Creston Valley Public Library. He is currently reading The Wanderers by Meg Howrey.

Just Posted

Two fires of note burning in Southeast Fire Centre

As of Saturday afternoon there were more than 20 fires burning in the Southeast Fire Centre.

LKB members fight heli-skiing proposal

Robert Louie Sr., have joined with band members who are opposed to a Retallack/Lower Kootenay Band Agreement.

Second fire hall referendum confirmed

Creston residents will have another chance to vote on the borrowing for a new fire hall.

Michelle Mungall on maternity leave

The Nelson-Creston MLA will return by the end of September

Valley Mudders invites new members

While the stereotypical image of a potter is someone sitting at a wheel spinning pots, a look at the displays of various members’ work shows that most of the output is hand-built.

BC Games: Day 3 wrap and closing ceremonies

The torch in the Cowichan Valley has been extinguished as Fort St. John gets ready to host the 2020 BC Winter Games

Police confirm girl, 8 others injured in Toronto shooting; shooter dead

Paramedics said many of the victims in Danforth, including a child, were rushed to trauma centres

Why do they do it? Coaches guide kids to wins, personal bests at the BC Games

Behind the 2,300 B.C. athletes are the 450 coaches who dedicate time to help train, compete

Government sets full-time salary range for Justin Trudeau’s nanny

At its top range, the order works out to a rate of $21.79 per hour, assuming a 40-hour work week

Lower Mainland teams battle for baseball gold at BC Games

Vancouver Coastal squeaked out a 3-2 win against Fraser Valley

The Northern Secwepemc te Qelmucw people signed an agreement-in-principle with the B.C. government

The signing ceremony, at the Eliza Archie Memorial School, was 25 years in the making

Canada to resettle dozens of White Helmets and their families from Syria

There are fears the volunteers would become a target for government troops

Francesco Molinari wins British Open at Carnoustie

It is his first win at a major and the first by an Italian

ZONE 1: Hannah Tracey looks to mom as role model while at BC Games

‘She has believed in me when I couldn’t believe in myself,’ Tracey said at BC Summer Games in Cowichan

Most Read