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Library users challenge books, videos

For release February 22, 2008

(Ottawa, February 22, 2008) Oliver Twist, The Golden Compass and Rolling Stone magazine were among the library materials challenged by Canadian library users in 2007, according to a new survey released today.

The Canadian Library Association’s 2nd annual Survey of Challenged Materials in Canadian Libraries identified 42 items challenged by patrons. Children’s books, mainstream films, graphic novels and popular magazines were all challenged, and a policy on Internet access was also disputed. The survey was released in advance of Freedom to Read Week, February 24 to March 1.

Many of the books and DVDs were challenged by parents and grandparents who found the materials to be age-inappropriate, sexually explicit, violent, racist, or questioned family values. Included in the 2007 challenges were Masterpiece Theatre’s DVD of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, citing a “childbirth depiction”, and The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman for religious viewpoints.

”The reasons given for challenges this past year strongly echo those documented in the mid-1980s,” says CLA President Alvin Schrader. “Librarians and public library trustees need to continue to be knowledgeable and articulate about potentially controversial topics and about our core values, freedom of expression and the freedom to receive information. If libraries don’t create a safe space in Canadian society for as many voices as possible, nobody else will. This will always be an important policy goal for libraries in Canada.”

In addition to being CLA President, Dr. Schrader, a professor at the University of Alberta, has published Fear of Words: Censorship and the Public Libraries of Canada, based on a survey of censorship pressures on Canadian public libraries.

Despite the challenges, the status of most of the materials identified in the survey was not changed within the library’s collection.

Professor Toni Samek of CLA’s Advisory Committee on Intellectual Freedom, thanks the survey respondents who reported in, noting most challenges go unreported. The entire report is available on the CLA website.

The Canadian Library Association/Association canadienne des bibliothèques is the largest national library association in Canada, encompassing public, academic, school and special libraries. It represents thousands of Canadian libraries and 57,000 library workers.

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For further information, contact CLA Executive Director Don Butcher at 613-232-9625 ext. 306 or

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