The Information Policy Blog

The (unofficial) blog of the BCLA Information Policy Committee

Monthly Archives: April 2012

Public Libraries and the Homeless

Public Libraries and the Homeless

by Kristy Brimacombe

This wiki is intended for information professionals working in a public institution, as well as library users seeking a better understanding of the issues homeless individuals face when attempting to access information and the considerations libraries must make when serving the entire community. The factors contributing to a person becoming homeless include, but are not limited to: mental and physical illness, domestic violence, addiction, lack of affordable housing and the loss of a job. A 2002 study found that veterans make up approximately 40% of the homeless adults in the United States.[1] “The homeless” are not a homogenous group; consequently, their information needs are diverse.

Public libraries are intended to serve the entire community and, as such, have the potential to make a difference in the lives of the poor and homeless by ensuring access to information in all of its forms; newspapers, fiction, non-fiction, the internet, workshops, and the like can all be of use. Unfortunately, many of these potential patrons come up against considerable barriers to library access. The library (or other patrons) may take issue with a homeless patron’s smell, appearance or belongings and create various policies in response. Additionally, some libraries may be hesitant to loan books to patrons without a fixed address. The ALA’s policy clearly states that these patrons should not be excluded from the public library.

How are public libraries dealing with the issue of homelessness in their communities? And what kind of policies and services can public libraries implement to assist poor and homeless patrons?


1 Official Policies
2 Information Poverty
3 Barriers to Use
3.1 An Uninviting Environment
3.2 Discrimination
3.3 No Library Card Without an Address
4 Recent Initiatives
4.1 Amended Borrowing Policies
4.2 Employing Formerly Homeless Persons
4.3 Professional Consultations
4.4 Community Partnerships
5 Conclusion
6 Footnotes
7 References

Official Policies

Public libraries are intended to serve the entire community, including the poor and the homeless. The American Library Association’s policy on services for the poor, Policy 61, states that the association “promotes equal access to information for all persons and recognizes the urgent need to respond to the increasing number of poor children, adults and families in America.” [2]

The policy recognizes that there are a number of factors that should be recognized when considering services for the poor, “including illiteracy, illness, social isolation, homelessness, hunger, and discrimination which hamper the effectiveness of traditional library services.” [3] Poor members of society can face many barriers when trying to access the public library, such as the inability to obtain a library card, feeling unwelcome by staff and other patrons, an inability to pay fines, and a general prejudice towards the homeless as “problem patrons.”

The BCLA’s official statement regarding library access as a basic right states that:
Public libraries belong to their communities. As public institutions, they are funded from taxes and can thus ensure that a wide range of information, education and recreation resources are provided for all residents. Libraries that become dependent on user fees can feel pressured to cater to their users and not represent the needs of the greater community. These libraries would then cease to be “public.”…Library user fees disenfranchise and marginalize people who cannot afford to pay for information. [4]

As members of the community, the poor and the homeless have a legitimate right to utilize the library and its services. Likewise, the ALA considers it to be “crucial that libraries recognize their role in enabling poor people to participate fully in a democratic society.” [5] Public libraries are now tasked with balancing the needs of all patrons; just as they must encourage the poor to access library services, they cannot favour them over any other group of patrons.

Information Poverty

Information poverty refers to a lack of access to basic information needs, including information on housing (both emergency and long term), health issues, and legal rights; this is caused by individuals either not knowing where the information can be found or not having the tools to access the information. [6] Often, the economically poor are also considered to be information poor, as they are less likely to have a personal computer and internet connection, and therefore do not have the ease of access to information that others in the community may have; however, it is important to note that lack of internet access is just one component of information poverty. [7] In a 2003 study, Julie Hersberger found that homeless families often “did not view the Internet as a major source of needed information” [8] and were more likely to seek information from social contacts.

Additionally, those without internet access are at a significant disadvantage, as today’s job searches rely heavily on the internet. Public libraries can serve as a valuable resource to job seekers, because of both internet access and materials or workshops on resumes and cover letters. [9]

Barriers to Use

An Uninviting Environment

The poor and homeless can be made to feel unwelcome in what should be a public space by both the staff and fellow patrons. According to Lan Shen, “few libraries, if any, have written policies that clearly safeguard the interests and rights of the homeless.” [10] In fact, seemingly harmless regulations can give libraries the justification to evict homeless patrons based on their smell, appearance or belongings, or to label them—and treat them as—“problem patrons.” A 2005 report by the ALA states that libraries should recognize that “poor hygiene and homelessness are conditions of extreme poverty, not types of behaviour”[11]; however, this is not always seen in practice. Some libraries have introduced specific odor or hygiene policies meant to “teach the homeless, children -and others how to behave,” however these policies “are at best misguided and, at worst, contribute to the criminalizarion of poor people.” [12]

Recent policies against bringing items such as bedrolls into the library serve to prohibit the homeless population from visiting the library. This also has the unintended side effect of charging librarians with policing the library rather than providing information services. [13] Security guards employed at a library can actually serve as an ally for homeless patrons, as one library has found; their security guards know the homeless patrons by name and are familiar with each patron’s needs. [14] Another library sought to help with the problem of homelessness by converting a nearby building into a shelter, thereby eliminating the need for the homeless to sleep and bathe in the library. [15]

Linda Tashbook, a university librarian, reminds us that “there are lots of things that [patrons] might be, and lots of ways that we might describe [them], but as long as we dwell on those we are not paying attention to [their] information needs.”[16]


Unfortunately, there is much discrimination against those that can benefit greatly from public libraries, as “their free access to library service is often perceived to be infringing upon the rights of other patrons.” [17] A 2008 letter to the editor published by the Vancouver Sun exemplifies this discriminatory attitude; Dorian Rayn writes that “It is a sad time for all of us who loved everything the VPL offered to see this Vancouver icon reduced to a place where the unwashed and the unhinged openly imbibe pharmaceuticals, sleep off their intoxications, and have conversations with their shadows.” [18]

Libraries have a responsibility to balance the needs of the entire community. One librarian explains the situation as follows: “That’s the balance that you try to seek – trying not to lose anyone while providing service to everyone. You don’t want to come across as the bad guy.”[19] Lilienthal points out that this does not necessarily mean treating every patron equally, as it could “prevent helpful actions, including simple services such as merely listening to a homeless library user.” [20] Some libraries take their services into homeless shelters, hoping to create a positive relationship with this patron group. An example of this is the Live Oak Public Libraries in Georgia, which hosts story time for families in shelters around the city. [21]

No Library Card Without an Address

It can be a challenge for the homeless to obtain library cards, as libraries generally require the patron to have a fixed address and provide identification; all too often these policies tell the homeless that they are not welcome in the library.[22] Various libraries have created exceptions to this policy for their homeless patrons. Possible solutions include granting “temporary” membership, which limits the number of books that can be borrowed, accepting a letter from the shelter in lieu of an address and simply bypassing the address requirement.[23]

The ALA’s Policy 61 states that it is the responsibility of public libraries to “promote removal of all barriers to library and information services, particularly fees and overdue charges,” [24] although it is unclear if this is widely followed. Beth Lawry recounts an interaction with a homeless woman named Sylvia whose backpack, which contained medications, library books and her library card, was stolen. Her biggest concern was the loss of the library card; she worried that it would not be replaced and she would lose access until the stolen books were paid for. [25] Although the author sympathizes with this woman’s predicament, she also wonders how she would react if Sylvia were a patron in her library: would she strictly follow the library’s policies or would she make exceptions in order to allow library access to someone who so clearly relies on it? [26]

One argument made against allowing the homeless to check out materials is based on loss prevention. Some worry that these materials will be returned damaged or not at all. The Worcester Public Library stated in 2006 that they will allow homeless patrons to borrow materials; they plan to monitor returns and will work with other community agencies to investigate missing materials and fundraise to cover replacement materials, should they be necessary.[27] Willett and Broadley were told by some libraries that the benefits of borrowing books experienced by the homeless outweighs the potential loss of materials; in the case of the Worcester Public Library, if too many books were lost, this practice would no longer be considered sustainable.[28] [29]

Recent Initiatives

Amended Borrowing Policies

An increasing number of libraries are beginning to recognize the need for all patrons to be able to borrow books, regardless of their living situation; however, there are often limitations set for those without a fixed address. This is a step in the right direction, but still reflects inequality in information access policies. For example, the Greater Victoria Public Library system states on their website that “people in transition” who have “identification but no known or permanent address are eligible for limited borrowing privileges and Internet access.” [30] Of course, this still requires the patron to have some form of indentification.

Employing Formerly Homeless Persons

The public library can serve other needs of its homeless patrons. The library can be a comfortable place to relax inside and interact with others—and for some, an opportunity to bathe or wash clothing.[31] This use of the washrooms can make other patrons and library staff uncomfortable; some libraries have found creative and inexpensive solutions, using it as an opportunity to create an inclusive environment. A branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia hired people who were formerly homeless to act as bathroom attendants who would “report any illegal activity to library security, perform light cleaning, and serve as a friendly referral service to homeless people in need of outreach services.” [32] This allowed the library to address their patrons’ (both homeless and housed) needs without sacrificing one group for the other.

Professional Consultations

Professional services, such as legal and financial, can also be of use. “The homeless encounter the law in ways that are different from everyone else” [33] and therefore can have unique legal needs. Of course, librarians should not dispense legal advice, but they can assist the patron in locating relevant resources. The San Jose Public Library hosts a program called Lawyers in the Library in which lawyers provide twenty minute consultations with interested patrons.[34]

Community Partnerships

In 2009, the San Francisco Public Library hired Leah Esguerra in partnership with the Department of Health. [35] Esguerra works with a group of formerly homeless men and women to seek out poor and homeless people within the library. Together, they provide peer counselling and answer questions about shelters and other basic needs. Esguerra also “assesses users to determine their need for government assistance and treatment of health and mental problems,” promotes different workshops offered by the library, and assists library staff in answering tough questions from their homeless patrons. [36]

Other libraries have created book clubs, organized hair cuts and dental care, and matched homeless patrons with teens to allow them to get to know the patrons on a personal level. Of the book club created in Michigan’s Traverse Area District Library, Margaret Kelly says, “The participants were already library patrons. […] I wanted to know them as such, not this or that homeless person.” [37] These programs provide an opportunity for the library staff and outside organizations or businesses to both assist the patrons on an individual level and to put aside any preconceived notions they have about homeless patrons.


The group of people that make up “the homeless” have diverse backgrounds and needs. Many are “multi-crisis homeless,” meaning that their homelessness is the result of a string of unfortunate events, not just a singular issue. [38] Homelessness does not automatically denote joblessness; in fact, about one in four are employed. [39] It does not benefit the homeless or the larger community to make generalizations about who the homeless are. In addition, it is important to consider that homelessness is not a permanent state, but a situation that can be remedied with the right resources and support.

Public libraries throughout the United States and Canada have found creative ways to encourage library use by the homeless; however, discriminatory practices and attitudes continue to discourage their use of the library’s resources. While some members of the public may not welcome this group, access to information resources is essential for the poor; not only does access provide people with information that can directly benefit their lives, it also provides enjoyment and helps them to feel connected with the larger community. It is important for public libraries to have policies regarding the inclusion of these patrons, as well as to create initiatives that will foster an amicable relationship between the library and its poor or homeless users.


1.↑ Hersberger, J. (2003). Are the economically poor information poor? Does the digital divide affect the homeless and access to information? In The Canadian Journal of Information and Library Science 27 (3).
2.↑ Gieskes, L. (2009). ALA Task Force Member Survey on Policy 61. Library Services for the Poor. In Progressive Librarian (32), pp. 82–87.
3.↑ Gieskes, L. (2009). ALA Task Force Member Survey on Policy 61. Library Services for the Poor. In Progressive Librarian (32), pp. 82–87.
4.↑ British Columbia Library Association. Statement and guidelines on public library user fees. Last accessed March 28, 2012.
5.↑ Gieskes, L. (2009). ALA Task Force Member Survey on Policy 61. Library services for the poor. In Progressive Librarian (32), pp. 82–87.
6.↑ Hersberger, J. (2003). Are the economically poor information poor? Does the digital divide affect the homeless and access to information? The Canadian Journal of Information and Library Science 27 (3).
7.↑ Hersberger, J. (2003). Are the economically poor information poor? Does the digital divide affect the homeless and access to information? The Canadian Journal of Information and Library Science 27 (3).
8.↑ Hersberger, J. (2003). Are the economically poor information poor? Does the digital divide affect the homeless and access to information? The Canadian Journal of Information and Library Science 27 (3).
9.↑ Lilienthal, S. (2011). The problem is not the homeless. In Library Journal 136 (11).
10.↑ Shen, L. (2002). The dilemma of urban library service for the homeless. In Current Studies in Librarianship 26 (1/2), pp. 77–83.
11.↑ — (2005). Are public libraries criminalizing poor people? In Public Libraries 44 (3), p. 175.
12.↑ — (2005). Are public libraries criminalizing poor people? In Public Libraries 44 (3), p. 175.
13.↑ Shen, L. (2002). The dilemma of urban library service for the homeless. In Current Studies in Librarianship 26 (1/2), pp. 77–83.
14.↑ Burek Pierce, J. (2004) Finding an ethical balance. American Libraries 35(11) pp.61.
15.↑ Shen, L. (2002). The dilemma of urban library service for the homeless. In Current Studies in Librarianship 26 (1/2), pp. 77–83.
16.↑ Tashbook, L. (2009). Aiming high, reaching out and doing good: Helping homeless library patrons with legal information. In Public Libraries 48 (1), pp. 38–45.
17.↑ Shen, L. (2002). The dilemma of urban library service for the homeless. In Current Studies in Librarianship 26 (1/2), pp. 77–83.
18.↑ Rayn, D. (2008). Library has turned into a shelter for the homeless. Vancouver Sun. Last accessed March 28, 2012.
19.↑ Burek Pierce, J. (2004) Finding an ethical balance. American Libraries 35(11) pp.61
20.↑ Lilienthal, S. (2011). The problem is not the homeless. In Library Journal 136 (11).
21.↑ Shen, L. (2002). The dilemma of urban library service for the homeless. In Current Studies in Librarianship 26 (1/2), pp. 77–83.
22.↑ Willett, P. and Broadley, R. (2011). Effective public library outreach to homeless people. In Library Review 60 (8), pp. 658–670.
23.↑ Willett, P. and Broadley, R. (2011). Effective public library outreach to homeless people. In Library Review 60 (8), pp. 658–670.
24.↑ Gieskes, L. (2009). ALA Task Force Member Survey on Policy 61. Library Services for the Poor. In Progressive Librarian (32), pp. 82–87.
25.↑ Lawry, B. A. (2002). The value of a library card to a homeless person. In Public Libraries 41 (4), pp. 200–201.
26.↑ Lawry, B. A. (2002). The value of a library card to a homeless person. In Public Libraries 41 (4), pp. 200–201.
27.↑ Associated Press (2006). Homeless advocates persist. In American Libraries, p. 17.
28.↑ Willett, P. and Broadley, R. (2011). Effective public library outreach to homeless people. In Library Review 60 (8), pp. 658–670.
29.↑ Associated Press (2006). Homeless advocates persist. In American Libraries, p. 17.
30.↑ Greater Victoria Public Library. (2011) Special Cards. Last accessed April 6, 2012.
31.↑ Price, L. (2009). The story of the H.O.M.E. Page Cafe. In Public Libraries 48 (1), pp. 32–34.
32.↑ Price, L. (2009). The story of the H.O.M.E. Page Cafe. In Public Libraries 48 (1), pp. 32–34.
33.↑ Tashbook, L. (2009). Aiming high, reaching out and doing good: Helping homeless library patrons with legal information. In Public Libraries 48 (1), pp. 38–45.
34.↑ Lilienthal, S. (2011). The problem is not the homeless. In Library Journal 136 (11).
35.↑ Lilienthal, S. (2011). The problem is not the homeless. In Library Journal 136 (11).
36.↑ Lilienthal, S. (2011). The problem is not the homeless. In Library Journal 136 (11).
37.↑ Lilienthal, S. (2011). The problem is not the homeless. In Library Journal 136 (11).
38.↑ Hersberger, J. (2003). Are the economically poor information poor? Does the digital divide affect the homeless and access to information? The Canadian Journal of Information and Library Science 27 (3).
39.↑ Hersberger, J. (2003). Are the economically poor information poor? Does the digital divide affect the homeless and access to information? The Canadian Journal of Information and Library Science 27 (3).


— (2005). Are public libraries criminalizing poor people? In Public Libraries 44 (3), p. 175.
Associated Press (2006). Homeless advocates persist. In American Libraries, p. 17.
Burek Pierce, J. (2004) Finding an ethical balance. American Libraries 35(11) pp.61.
Gieskes, L. (2009). ALA Task Force Member Survey on Policy 61. Library Services for the Poor. In Progressive Librarian (32), pp. 82–87.
Hersberger, J. (2003). Are the economically poor information poor? Does the digital divide affect the homeless and access to information? In The Canadian Journal of Information and Library Science 27 (3).
Hersberger, J. (2005). The homeless and information needs and services. In Reference & User Services Quarterly 44 (3), pp. 199–202.
Lawry, B. A. (2002). The value of a library card to a homeless person. In Public Libraries 41 (4), pp. 200–201.
Lilienthal, S. (2011). The problem is not the homeless. In Library Journal 136 (11).
Price, L. (2009). The story of the H.O.M.E. Page Cafe. In Public Libraries 48 (1), pp. 32–34.
Shen, L. (2002). The dilemma of urban library service for the homeless. In Current Studies in Librarianship 26 (1/2), pp. 77–83.
Tashbook, L. (2009). Aiming high, reaching out and doing good: Helping homeless library patrons with legal information. In Public Libraries 48 (1), pp. 38–45.
Willett, P. and Broadley, R. (2011). Effective public library outreach to homeless people. In Library Review 60 (8), pp. 658–670.

Canadian Public Domain in 2012: the Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations

Canadian Public Domain in 2012: the Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations
by Alison Dodd

Easily recognizable: the copyright symbol. Image retrieved from the Wikimedia Commons.

This wiki page will give a brief overview of the state of the public domain as it stands in Canada in early 2012. It will then move on to discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations and how this specific international treaty may affect Canadian intellectual property regulations in future. One thing that is important to keep in mind while reading is that copyright reform is currently underway in Canada regardless of the country’s position on the fringe of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, so the information this wiki draws from is changing daily and thus may end up being outdated sooner rather than later. However, there are a number of resources listed that will remain valuable regardless of the changing nature of the treaty negotiations and copyright bills, so a secondary purpose of this wiki is as a pathfinder to lead the reader to the more constantly updated sources on the topic.

Stakeholders with a vested interest in this topic are information professionals seeking updated information on current Canadian public domain definitions as well as the more common layperson without a background in information science, and as such, this wiki intends to present these issues while remaining clear, concise, and as neutral as possible.


1 Introduction
2 As it stands in Spring 2012: public domain in Canada
2.1 Copyright Act of Canada
2.2 Term of copyright
2.3 Anonymous and pseudonymous works
2.4 Posthumous works
3 The Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations
3.1 Overview
3.2 Behind closed doors: the effects of secret negotiations on public opinion
4 Canadian context
4.1 What the TPP means for the Canadian public domain
4.2 Canada’s consultation process with the public
5 Current Advocacy
5.1 Internal affairs: Canadian advocates for change
6 Notes


According to the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC), copyright is “usually presented as a balance between promoting the public interest in the encouragement and dissemination of works of the arts and intellect and obtaining a just reward for the creator.”[1] Library and Archives Canada goes on to present copyright as a “bundle of rights, economic and moral, owned by authors”[2] as well as other performers and broadcasters. Copyright regulations have been put in place to attempt to address this issue, and in order for an individual to legally reproduce the work(s) of an author, these regulations must be followed. However, striking a balance between the two ends of the spectrum– the artist and the public, in this case– has proven problematic given the speed that technology changes and the varying needs and desires of both artists and the public. Nothing exists in a vacuum; in order for culture to progress and for artists and authors alike to be able to build upon the works that came before them, it is necessary to create a system that compensates artists fairly while still maintaining an environment of freedom of expression so that culture can be remixed in a variety of ways.

Authored works are protected by copyright for a certain amount of time, and this amount of time differs between countries as long as each country meets the minimum international obligations. Hence, what is considered public domain in one country might not be considered so in another. Regardless of the length of time that the term of protection lasts for, once it is over, these works enter the public domain, wherein they can be freely used and copied by anyone with no threat of legal repercussion. The CIPPIC explains that “public domain material is different from material for which the author has stated that public use is permitted (under, for example, a Creative Commons license), but would otherwise fall under the [Copyright of Canada] Act.”[3] Works that fall under the classification of public domain are there because one of two things has happened: either their term of protection has expired, or they were never protected by an Act to begin with because their subject matter was not considered relevant for protection.[4]

As it stands in Spring 2012: public domain in Canada

Copyright Act of Canada

The Copyright Act of Canada aims to regulate technological use, so it is only fitting that the Act itself must be changed frequently to keep pace with technological shifts. The Act was initially passed in 1921, almost fifty years after Confederation. In 1921, the Copyright Act of Canada amalgamated the Imperial Copyright Act as well as other components of “other Imperial and Canadian statues”, such as the Criminal Code of Canada.[5] The Act remained largely the same until the 1980s, when it was amended to include Revised Statutes (Chapter C-42) in 1985 and Phase I of Bill C-60 in 1988, which began to take into account perceived problems that were cropping up because of the blossoming computer age. After the 20th century came to a close, further attempts to amend the Act took shape. Bill C-60 (2005) and Bill C-61 (2008) were both met with criticism based on the impression that the bills did not come to a satisfactory balance between the rights of the copyright holders and the rights of the consumers, and both were scrapped when Parliament dissolved for unrelated reasons. Most recently, Bill C-11 was tabled in 2011 and is set to include the amendments proposed in early 2012. It has yet to formally pass but its tabling demonstrates that copyright (and hence, what constitutes works in the public domain) is still very much a hot topic in Canada today.

Term of copyright

Protection under the Copyright Act of Canada is granted for the duration of the author’s life (including the remainder of the calendar year in which the author dies) as well as the fifty years that follow after that calendar year has drawn to a close. Once that term has finished, the work enters the public domain and is freely available for anyone to use.[6] The Copyright Act records this notion under subsection 6 as follows: “The term for which copyright shall subsist shall, except as otherwise expressly provided by this Act, be the life of the author, the remainder of the calendar year in which the author dies, and a period of fifty years following the end of that calendar year.” (R.S., 1985, c. C-42, s. 6; 1993, c. 44, s. 58.)[7]

Anonymous and pseudonymous works

In situations where the author of the item is either not known or has been published under a pseudonym, the copyright on the work in question lasts for “the term consisting of the remainder of the calendar year of the first publication of the work and a period of fifty years following the end of that calendar year”[8] or a term that includes the rest of that calendar year of “the making of the work” as well as a period of seventy-five years after that calendar year is over – whichever comes first. However, if the author’s identity is revealed within the parameters of this term, the regulations outlined in Section 6 (see “Term of copyright” above) of the Act apply instead.

Posthumous works

Posthumous works describe the works that have yet to be “published, performed, or delivered” during an author’s lifetime but that are released after the author has died – with or without their express consent.[9] The regulations set forth in the Copyright Act of Canada stipulate that if the work in question was created after July 25, 1997, the term of copyright is the same as is outlined in Section 6 of the Act: the remainder of the calendar year in which the author died and the fifty years afterwards. However, if the work was created before July 25, 1997, there are three possible outcomes:

  • The work of a deceased author that is published, performed or delivered prior to July 25, 1997, will retain copyright from the date of publication, plus 50 years, to the end of that calendar year.
  • The unpublished work of an author who was deceased during the 50 years prior to July 25, 1997, retains copyright until December 31, 1997 (the remainder of the calendar year in which Bill C-32 came into force), plus 50 years following the end of that calendar year.
  • The unpublished work of an author who deceased more than 50 years prior to July 25, 1997, retains copyright until December 31, 1997 (the remainder of the calendar year in which Bill C-32 came into force), plus five years following the end of that calendar year.[10]

The Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations


The Trans-Pacific Partnership is effectively a free trade agreement between countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Originally, the agreement signed in 2005 was between Chile, New Zealand, Brunei, and Singapore, but there are currently nine countries that are taking part in the negotiations already and several other countries—including Canada, Japan, and Mexico—aiming to join the partnership.[11] The TPP seeks to liberalize investment between member countries, develop and expand world trade, create clear regulations on a “commercial framework”, and—among other items on the list—”promote the protection of intellectual property rights to encourage trade in goods and services [between members]”.[12] However, in iPolitics columnist Peter Clark’s article titled “Is the Trans-Pacific Partnership a re-writing of NAFTA?”, he declares that “The TPP is not a Free Trade Agreement. It is a Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) built on discrimination against non-members.”[13] One might argue that this is just a matter of semantics, but the point he seems to be getting at sheds some light on why other countries are trying to align themselves with the partnership rather than stray away from it: there are benefits to being part of an exclusive alliance rather than on the outskirts of it. Despite the potential trade benefits and boost to international relations, the stakes of negotiating membership may be too high in other ways– especially for Canada’s intellectual property regulations and its effects on public domain, as will be discussed below– for comfort.

Behind closed doors: the effects of secret negotiations on public opinion

One of the issues critics take with the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations is the amount of secrecy prior to the release of the draft copies of their regulations. This “behind closed doors” level of confidentiality is certainly not exclusive to the TPP, but one would hope that as international agreements move forward into the 21st century they would also begin to embrace a certain amount of public consultation before the drafts are released (or leaked, as the case was the TPP’s chapter on intellectual property rights in February 2011. Over at Ars Technica, Nate Anderson writes that, “… negotiators still insist of shielding their work from the public, even on matters of increasing public concern, such as digital copyrights. And each agreement they negotiate mysteriously ends up just a bit tougher than the one before it… people want meaningful access to TPP documents before the draft text has been so worked over that no substantive change is possible.”[14] This lack of external discussion before the TPP chapter on intellectual property was leaked led to some amount of public outcry over the proposed changes to intellectual property rights, restrictions, and punishments for infringement. Currently, proposals “are under discussion on many forms of intellectual property, including trademarks, geographical indications, copyright and related rights, patents, trade secrets, data required for the approval of certain regulated products, as well as intellectual property enforcement and genetic resources and traditional knowledge.”[15] These changes will have varying implications for the other countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership but would mean a significant overhaul of even the changes in the proposed Bill C-11 in Canada.

Canadian context

What the TPP means for the Canadian public domain

Although the TPP negotiations are not just about intellectual property (and subsequently, the public domain), discussions on IP do remain a core component of the regulations that will be created and enforced by the negotiating parties. This is problematic for Canada for a number of reasons. In his November 30, 2011 blog post, information policy guru Michael Geist alleges that if “Canada were to ratify the TPP, it would require another copyright bill to undo much of what the government is about to enact with Bill C-11.”[16] He goes on to list the consequences (related to intellectual property) that would take place should Canada join the TPP negotiations as they stand now:

  • the current term of protection would be extended to include life plus 70 years (rather than life plus 50 years as mentioned previously)
  • new rules around digital locks with increased penalties for infringement and circumvention of those rules
  • new provisions that could potentially require reversal of the Bill-C11 changes “that distinguish between commercial and non-commercial infringement”
  • new information management rules that would both a) “lower the standard for violation” and b) “extend the scope of prohibited activities”
  • new rules that would change what is allowed to be patented in Canada as well as allowing for extended patent terms and the creation of “triple damage awards for patent infringements”[17]

In a separate blog post, Geist goes on to give a list of Canadian authors whose works would not be able to enter the public domain for yet another 20 years after the date they are already scheduled to do so. The list includes such authors as Marshall McLuhan, E.J. Pratt, Gwethalyn Graham, Gabrielle Roy, and Hugh Garner – and many more. The list provided by Geist is by no means an exhaustive one, but it is important to recognize that these proposed changes designed to overhaul current intellectual property regulations would also push back the date that these works become available under a public domain license by a significant margin.[18] Access to Canadian literature would certainly be negatively affected with no benefit to the authors themselves, for they have been deceased for over half a century at this point. Even the Supreme Court agrees with this sentiment: as Meera Nair’s January 8, 2012 blog post states, back in 2002 Justice Binne said that “[e]xcessive control by holders of copyrights and other forms of intellectual property may unduly limit the ability of the public domain to incorporate and embellish creative innovation in the long-term interests of society as a whole.”[19]

Canada’s consultation process with the public

As mentioned previously, the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations have come under fire for their pre-draft international secrecy. However, the Canadian government has taken the commendable approach of requesting public consultation and advice from citizens regarding the country’s potential entrance into the negotiations. They issued the following statement on December 31, 2011: “The Government is embarking on a public consultation process to allow all interested stakeholders an early opportunity to provide comments, input and advice on possible free trade negotiations with TPP countries… It is essential that the Government of Canada be fully aware of the interests and potential sensitivities of Canadians with respect to this initiative. We welcome advice and views on any priorities, objectives and concerns relating to possible free trade negotiations with TPP countries.”[20] The consultation process lasted until February 14, 2012. It was not limited to the topics of intellectual property and public domain, although Michael Geist and others strongly encouraged Canadians to make their voices heard on those specific subjects.[21] Prior to the open consultation process, CBC News held an informal poll titled “Should Canada enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership Deal?”.[22] While this poll may not have affected the consultation process results directly, it may have raised public awareness prior to the consultation period and encouraged more Canadians to write in with their feedback and suggestions on how to move forward.

Current Advocacy

There are a number of citizen groups and researchers working to critically examine the effects that the TPP negotiations could have on both those inside and outside of the deal. Internationally speaking, there are several citizen groups that have been working to shift public opinion away from supporting the TPP negotiations for a variety of reasons that include but also go beyond the copyright and intellectual property concerns discussed here. Three such groups are as follows:

  • TPP Digest : Specifically created to address and evaluate the implications of the Trans-Pacific Parternship Agreement, this website is funded with grant money from the University of Auckland. The site provides “an easily accessible and comprehensive database of resources for researchers, activists, officials and others to encourage informed debate and critical engagement with the issues arising from the proposed agreement and to influence the negotiations.”[23] Although the topic is not limited to the copyright and intellectual property clauses within the TPP negotiations, this site is an invaluable reference tool especially for those interested in examining the issues from a New Zealand perspective.
  • TechLiberty : The TechLiberty working group has a mandate that is threefold in nature: it expresses concerns about the erosion of civil liberties in the digital world; it is dedicated to protecting the rights of individual people in the areas of the internet and technology; it contributes articles aimed at educating users on their own rights online. The group is based out of Wellington, NZ, and they have written numerous articles on the many issues involved with the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
  • Public Citizen : With three offices in the United States– two in Washington, D.C., and one in Austin, TX– the Public Citizen group has developed a mandate of advocating for individuals since 1971. They are a non-profit, non-partisan organization and are “the countervailing force to corporate power.”[24] Educating individuals about the implications of the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations falls within this mandate, so a quick search for the topic on their site will bring up ample relevant information.

Internal affairs: Canadian advocates for change

Dr. Mark Akrigg : Best known for founding, developing, and maintaining Project Gutenberg Canada, Mark Akrigg has voiced his concerns on the issues surrounding term of copyright extensions and subsequently, Canada’s involvement with the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. Project Gutenberg has been available since 2007 and is a freely available repository of ebooks that fall within the realm of the public domain in Canada; users outside of Canadian soil are advised to check their own country’s policies on works in the public domain before downloading files from the site. As Akrigg says regarding his own mission: “The site has been very successful, and our volunteers have now produced nearly 400 ebooks, which can be viewed at and downloaded from We offer our books at no charge, in HTML and plain Text formats. We use these open, public formats, with no digital rights management software, to ensure that our readers will never have to use proprietary software, and that these ebooks will never become obsolete. In particular, our Text versions are designed to be displayable on any computer with a display device, now or centuries from now.”[25] With this service model in mind, Akrigg has commented extensively on the topic of Canadian public domain, both on his own website and on the Canadian Copyright Consultations page. Akrigg encourages his supporters to get involved and to speak out on the topic. More information about how to do so effectively can be found on the Project Gutenberg main website. On the Copyright Consultations page (written in 2009 but not revoked at any point later), Akrigg lists a number of provisions that should be adopted instead of the strict and problematic regulations enforced by the TPP. Additionally, on his own website, he brings up the following points, all of which are very much worth considering:
“The copyright extensions proposed as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership are an unacceptable infringement of Canada’s cultural sovereignty. The TPP must not be used by other countries to impose their copyright systems on Canada.

The intellectual property chapter and other sections of the TPP disqualify it in its current form as a free trade agreement. It must be considered a managed trade agreement that is contrary to Canada’s interests.
The benefits of the TPP minus its huge disadvantages can be obtained through the relatively straightforward and uncontentious process of negotiating a genuine free trade agreement with Japan.”[26]

Michael Geist : With a history and education primarily in law, Michael Geist is one of Canada’s leading information and technological specialists. He blogs over at and contributes weekly columns to the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen, and the Toronto Star. Geist has continually been an advocate of fair dealing when it comes to balancing citizen and corporate/governmental interests and encourages individuals to speak out against copyright reform that will likely lead Canada away from taking a leadership role on digital rights management—and digital culture in general– in the future. More specifically with regards to this wiki’s topic, he maintains the website, where he provides opportunities for concerned citizens to get involved with promoting positive change. Geist has documented his concerns with the Trans-Pacific Partnership a number of times (as mentioned within earlier subsections of this wiki). He considers Canada’s entrance into the partnership a hasty, poorly thought out plan with drastic legal and political ramifications for both the government– as it tries to match an even stricter copyright stance on par with other countries in the partnership—and the everyday citizen. One of his skills of note is how he is able to parse a proposed bill into both its positive and negative aspects and then translating that knowledge and understanding into language that a layperson can easily understand. If you are interested in getting involved and trying to prevent these types of over-reaching copyright reforms from happening within Canada, Michael Geist’s blog and Canadian copyright page are both great places to start.


1.↑ “Copyright Law,” Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, last modified September 9, 2008,
2.↑ “Copyright,” Library and Archives Canada, last modified May 1, 2008,
3.↑ “Copyright Law,” Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, last modified September 9, 2008,
4.↑ “Copyright Law,” Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, last modified September 9, 2008,
5.↑ “Chronology of Canadian Copyright Law,” Russell McOrmond, last modified March 26, 2011,
6.↑ “How long does copyrights last?,” Canadian Intellectual Property Office, last modified February 13, 2012,
7.↑ “Consolidation Copyright Act: R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42,” Minister of Justice [Canada], last modified February 7, 2012, p.14.
8.↑ “Consolidation Copyright Act: R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42,” Minister of Justice [Canada], last modified February 7, 2012, p.15.
9.↑ “How long does copyrights last?,” Canadian Intellectual Property Office, last modified February 13, 2012,
10.↑ “How long does copyrights last?,” Canadian Intellectual Property Office, last modified February 13, 2012,
11.↑ Rachelle Younglai and Pablo Garibian, “Canada, Mexico ask to join pan-Pacific trade talks,” Reuters, last modified November 13, 2011,
12.↑ Trans-Pacific Partnership, “Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership,” accessed February 29, 2012,
13.↑ Peter Clark, “Is the Trans-Pacific Partnership a rewriting of NAFTA?,” iPolitics, last modified January 10, 2012,
14.↑ Nate Anderson, “Beyond ACTA: next secret copyright agreement negotiated this week—in Hollywood,” Ars Technica, last modified February 1, 2012,
15.↑ “Enhancing Trade and Investment, Supporting Jobs, Economic Growth and Development: Outlines of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement,” last modified November 12, 2011,
16.↑ “The Copyright Costs of Joining the TPP: Extending Bill C-11 With More Digital Locks & Penalties,” Michael Geist, last modified November 30, 2011,
17.↑ “The Copyright Costs of Joining the TPP: Extending Bill C-11 With More Digital Locks & Penalties,” Michael Geist, last modified November 30, 2011,
18.↑ “TPP Copyright Extension Would Keep Some of Canada’s Top Authors Out of Public Domain For Decades,” Michael Geist, last modified January 9, 2012,
19.↑ “A short lived celebration,” Meera Nair, last modified January 8, 2012,
20.↑ “Government Notices: Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade,” Canada Gazette [archive], last modified December 31, 2011,
21.↑ Michael Geist, “Like Ernest Hemingway? Help Preserve Canada’s Public Domain,” Huffington Post, last modified January 10, 2012,
22.↑ Community Team, “Should Canada enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal?,” CBC News, last modified November 16, 2011,
23.↑ “The Trans-Pacific Partnership Digest,” University of Auckland School of Law, last modified March 21, 2012,
24.↑ “About Public Citizen”, Public Citizen, last accessed March 29, 2012,
25.↑ “Archived – Project Gutenberg Canada,” Copyright Consultations, last modified March 1, 2010,
26.↑ “The Canadian Public Domain under threat,” Dr. Mark Akrigg, last modified Feb 12, 2012,

Censoring Sexuality: GLBTQ Resources in Public Libraries

Censoring Sexuality: GLBTQ Resources in Public Libraries

by Chelsea Bailey

Image designed and photographed by the author of this wiki article (Bailey, 2012a).

State censorship and public challenges to materials which portray gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (GLBTQ) sexual orientations is a major concern for public libraries and librarians within Canada. GLBTQ youth rely on public libraries for information on alternative sexualities and yet materials on homosexuality are one of the most frequently challenged and censored collections in the Canadian public library system (Martin & Murdock, 2007; Curry, 1999; Schrader & Wells, 2007). While mainstream publishing companies began to embrace GLBTQ fiction and non-fiction during the 1990s, many Canadian public libraries remain reluctant to acquire and promote collections which showcase alternative sexual orientations (Downey, 2005). A public library’s lack of GLBTQ material is particularly damaging for youth as important questions during the formation of their personal identities may remain unanswered (Alexander & Miselis, 2007). It is essential public librarians meet all users’ information needs (de la Pena McCook, 2011). Thus, this wiki article is intended to assist upcoming and current Canadian public librarians in creating a diverse and inclusive library experience for all youth through providing an analysis of information policy related to censorship, GLBTQ youth library patrons, censorship and challenges to GLBTQ materials in contemporary Canadian public libraries, and information on how public librarians can address censorship and challenges at their libraries.


  1. Legal Framework (1.1 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms & Intellectual Freedom; 1.2 Censorship)
  2. GLBTQ Youth (2.1 GLBTQ Youth and the Importance of Public Libraries)
  3. GLBTQ Censorship and Challenges at Canadian Public Libraries (3.1 Collection Development; 3.2 Cataloguing and Access; 3.3 Reference Interviews; 3.4 Filtering; 3.5 Challenges)
  4. How Can Public Librarians Respond? (4.1 Awareness; 4.2 Connections; 4.3 Policies)
  5. References

Legal Framework

There are numerous policies and concepts which have been used to challenge and censor GLBTQ materials in Canadian public libraries. Public libraries’ materials often experience challenges from the public and censorship by librarians and other library staff (Downey, 2005). It is important that public librarians are familiar with the 1982 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, intellectual freedom, and censorship.

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms & Intellectual Freedom

The 1982 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees Canadian citizens the freedom of conscience and religion, the freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, the freedom of peaceful assembly, and the freedom of association (Department of Justice Canada, 2012). A central element within the Charter is equality – the Charter stresses that that all Canadians are equal under the law and cannot be discriminated against via race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, and mental and physical disabilities (Department of Justice Canada, 2012). The Charter guarantees representation and equality in court but this has not been replicated within the nation’s cultural institutions, such as public libraries (Curry, 2000).

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms focuses on visual distinctions between people through emphasizing race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, and disabilities (Department of Justice Canada, 2012). Sexual orientation is an invisible characteristic of all Canadians and yet it is central in identity formation (Alexander & Miselis, 2007). In light of this, librarians must take extra precautions to ensure public libraries serve the diverse needs of its users without discrimination.

Intellectual freedom, or the notion that all individuals should have access to expressed thoughts, intellectual content, and the right to express one’s own opinions, is an important element of democratic societies (Morgan, 2010). The Canadian Library Association (as cited in Bernstein, 1996) claims that libraries must ensure that all people in Canada have access to knowledge, creativity, and intellectual activity through providing users with a wide array of sources containing various viewpoints. It is the public librarians’ role to guarantee intellectual freedom within society (de la Pena McCook, 2011).


Censorship is a direct challenge to intellectual freedom (Feather, 2004). Instances of censorship occur when information and opinions are prevented from being disseminated due to the particular interests of an individual, group, or the state (Feather, 2004). Censorship is often rationalized as a method to protect national security, public order, morals, and youth (Petersen, 1999). However, censorship results in hindering the flow of information and causing certain lifestyles or actions to be seen as morally corrupt within a society (Petersen, 1999).

Censorship in contemporary Canada has become a decentralized activity (Whitaker, 1999). While once censorship was initiated by the state and government, individual people and groups within Canadian society now attempt to censor others over disagreements concerning published works and morality (Whitaker, 1999). Contemporary Canadian censorship is now largely initiated through grassroots, community-led movements (Whitaker, 1999). For example, the Canadian state may not request that public libraries remove GLBTQ materials but a group of conservative or religious parents may demand that a public librarian does not display or make available books which discuss alternative sexualities (Whitaker, 1999).

Self-censorship also hinders intellectual freedom. Self-censorship, or the act of a librarian and his or her library promoting materials in accordance with a desire to avoid challenges from the public, is detrimental in fulfilling the information needs of all Canadians (Bernstein, 1996). It is the threat of censorship which typically leads to instances of self-censorship (Petersen, 1999). Public librarians must be aware of all possibilities of censorship at their institutions in order to prepare for and limit its occurrences.


An understanding of the GLBTQ youth user group is required in order to understand GLBTQ censorship, and thus the censorship of sexuality, at contemporary Canadian public libraries. Youth who identify as homosexual, bisexual, transsexual, or questioning (GLBTQ) are a unique user group in Canadian public libraries (Martin & Murdock, 2007). GLBTQ youth, also known as LGBTQ youth, exist within all communities regardless of its size or location (Martin & Murdock, 2007). Many GLBTQ youth hide their sexual orientation while acquiring information and forming their personal identity (Martin & Murdock, 2007). GLBTQ youths’ information needs may range from a desire for entertaining fiction, factual information on sexual orientations, and access to the Internet (Martin & Murdock, 2007). However, it is important to recognize that information needs vary between patrons (Martin & Murdock, 2007).

Public librarians should be aware that GLBTQ youth often face discrimination. GLBTQ youth may experience discrimination from all levels of society – bullying can occur in their homes, schools, the media, and other institutions (Alexander & Miselis, 2007). In 2005, approximately 90 percent of GLBTQ youth in the United States of America experienced harassment (Martin & Murdock, 2007). While this statistic applies to America, the close similarities within North American culture enable the information to be generalized to Canada as well. Experiences of discrimination may contribute to increased rates of homelessness, substance abuse, failure to graduate high school, and self-abuse in the GLBTQ North American community (Alexander & Miselis, 2007). To compound matters, GLBTQ youth typically do not have openly homosexual, bisexual, or transsexual role models and thus look to fiction for inspiration (Alexander & Miselis, 2007). GLBTQ youth are an important user group of public libraries – their position within society must be understood for librarians to fulfill their information needs.

GLBTQ Youth & the Importance of Public Libraries

GLBTQ youth are an invisible user group in Canadian public libraries (Schrader & Wells, 2007). Youth typically do not vocalize requests for GLBTQ materials in order to avoid discrimination (Alexander & Miselis, 2007). Some youth believe that asking librarians for information related to GLBTQ issues is the equivalent of coming out, or openly asserting one’s sexual orientation (Alexander & Miselis, 2007). Thus, GLBTQ youth may remain silent in the library and peruse the stacks alone (Alexander & Miselis, 2007).

Despite their apparent invisibility, GLBTQ youth depend on Canadian public libraries for information related to their sexual orientations (Alexander & Miselis, 2007). GLBTQ youth may not feel comfortable obtaining books, magazines, or newsletters on alternative sexualities at school libraries where classmates may easily spot them reading (Martin & Murdock, 2007). Furthermore, GLBTQ youth often participate in online communities for social support and visit online resources for information on sexuality and intimate relations (Greenblatt, 2011). GLBTQ youth may not feel comfortable using Internet resources at their school libraries or at home as their teachers, classmates, or families may identify them with their online search queries (Greenblatt, 2011). Access to online resources is particularly important for youth in rural or highly conservative locations as GLBTQ support services may not exist within the community (Schrader, 2009). Serious consequences can occur through a lack of information for GLBTQ library users, including instances of suicide (Alexander & Miselis, 2007). Thus, Canadian public libraries should serve as a confidential and safe location for GLBTQ youth to fulfill information needs without discrimination and the fear of outing (Martin & Murdock, 2007).

GLBTQ Censorship and Challenges at Canadian Public Libraries

GLBTQ materials in Canadian public libraries are frequently challenged and censored by members of society. Schrader, Bowman, and Samek (2011) report that the Canadian Library Association (CLA) Intellectual Freedom Committee dealt with 92 challenges, the majority on children’s resources, in 2010. There are many other instances of censorship at Canadian public libraries which go unreported by the CLA (Curry, 1999). Experiences of censorship and challenges to GLBTQ materials may be initiated through the self-censoring activities of a librarian or by forces outside of the library itself (Downey, 2005). Collection development, cataloguing, poor reference interviews, filtering, and public challenges to materials are all obstacles GLBTQ materials must confront in the Canadian public library system.

Collection Development

A lack of GLBTQ resources in public libraries may be attributed to the self-censoring activities of librarians (Schrader & Wells, 2007). Librarians may seek to supply the library with materials which will not incite public discord (Schrader & Wells, 2007). In 2000, over fifty percent of public librarians in British Columbia received complaints about GLBTQ materials (Curry, 2000). Thus, GLBTQ materials may not be selected for purchase due to the self-censoring methods of a librarian. The acquisition of GLBTQ materials in public libraries is also impacted by a librarian’s lack of information on their surrounding community (Gough & Greenblatt, 2011). Librarians may believe that their community contains few GLBTQ youth as they do not frequently ask librarians for assistance or borrow materials on GLBTQ issues in fear that the items will be discovered in their possession (Gough & Greenblatt, 2011). Budget cuts may cause public libraries to limit the amount of materials purchased for smaller user groups, which GLBTQ youth appear to be due to their invisibility (Curry, 1999). Furthermore, tax paying members of the public and library sponsors may complain that their money is being used to provide libraries with ‘indecent’ homosexual items (Curry, 2000).

The amount of GLBTQ materials in Canadian public libraries may also be impacted by society and western culture (Greyson, 2007). Many GLBTQ resources, such as comics and graphic novels, are difficult to find in library review literature (Greyson, 2007). For example, picture books with GLBTQ content receive thirty percent fewer reviews than picture books containing heterosexual content (Howard, 2005). Therefore, librarians may not be able to locate adequate information on GLBTQ items in order to approve of their addition to the collection (Howard, 2005).

Cataloguing and Access

Access to Canadian public libraries’ GLBTQ materials may also be limited due to improper cataloguing (Carmichael, 2002; Schrader & Wells, 2007). Subject cataloguing has traditionally been problematic for materials concerning alternative sexual orientations (Schrader & Wells, 2007). Until the 1980s, items on homosexuality were catalogued as a pathology and a sexual perversion (Schrader & Wells, 2007). The assignment of subject access points to GLBTQ library materials may be very general to the point that books are sometimes not identified as being about homosexuality at all (Schrader & Wells, 2007). Carmichael (2002) found that ‘homosexuality’ is the most commonly used subject heading for library items on alternative male sexualities. Yet, searching via the ‘homosexuality’ subject heading results in the retrieval of homophobic works as well (Carmichael, 2002). Poor cataloguing leads to the creation of records which do not adequately describe the library’s holdings and permit user access to all materials (Schrader & Wells, 2007). Thus, GLBTQ library patrons may be unable to locate the information they desire due to poor description and access.

The shelving, and thus classification, of GLBTQ resources creates an access barrier for those seeking information on alternative sexualities (Reiman & Greenblatt, 2011). Items with sexual content are often moved to a different section of the library following challenges (Reiman & Greenblatt, 2011). For example, a young adult book on homosexuality may be moved to the adult section to limit further public outcry after a challenge (Reiman & Greenblatt, 2011). An item’s removal from the stacks limits the ability for GLBTQ users to successfully browse (Carmichael, 2002). Problems with cataloguing – such as subject access points and shelving – may be attributed to a librarian’s attempt at self-censorship as bringing overt attention to a GLBTQ collection may incite public disgruntlement (Schrader & Wells, 2007).

Reference Interviews

Helpful reference interviews fulfill part of a public library’s goal to support intellectual freedom through making all resources and information available to patrons (Curry, 2005). However, public librarians may exercise biases and censorship while performing reference interviews (Curry, 2005). A study performed by Curry (2005) from 2001 to 2003 in Vancouver, British Columbia, found that public library patrons seeking GLBTQ materials experience censorship and discrimination during reference interviews.

Curry (2005) examined how librarians fulfill the information needs of users requesting GLBTQ materials through the recorded experiences of Angela, a teen searching for GLBTQ fiction. Curry (2005) found that fifty percent of librarians have a positive attitude, comfortably discuss GLBTQ materials, and ask if additional information is required following a reference interview. Experiences of censorship and discrimination may occur through librarians claiming that their library does not hold any GLBTQ materials or being unable to say the word ‘lesbian’ comfortably (Curry, 2005). Only forty percent of the public libraries visited during the study created a comfortable environment and provided enough information to warrant another visit by those seeking GLBTQ materials (Curry, 2005). GLBTQ users who experience negative reference interviews at public libraries have a decreased likelihood of returning to a library and thus the fulfillment of their information needs may become endangered (Curry, 2005).


Filtering, or the censoring of online materials which may be viewed at public libraries’ computer stations, is a concern for GLBTQ youth (Holt, 2011). GLBTQ youth may depend on Internet access for supportive social groups and information which cannot be located in the textual records of libraries (Holt, 2011). Filtering software – such as CyberPatrol, Symantic, SmartFilter, and Websense – limit the amount of information GLBTQ youth may encounter through not permitting users to view websites based on keywords, the configuration of letters in websites’ URLs, image recognition, and artificial intelligence (Holt, 2011; Schrader & Wells, 2007; Houghtan-Jan, 2010). Rideout, Richardson, and Resnick (as cited in Schrader & Wells, 2007) found that sixty percent of Internet websites containing GLBTQ sexual health information were blocked by filtering programs at public libraries in 2002. Thus, many GLBTQ issues are censored through public libraries’ filtering programs, causing GLBTQ youth to feel alienated and separate from acceptable social standards (Holt, 2011).


Challenges to specific items are the most obvious form of censorship in the contemporary Canadian public library system (Martin & Murdock, 2007). Challenges occur when individuals or groups argue that a particular item should not be within a library collection due to its illustrated or textual content (Berstein, 1996). Challenges can occur as a public attack, such as an individual reporting to a media outlet, a formal written complaint, or an oral complaint between a library user and the librarian or library staff member (Berstein, 1996). However, it is important to note that those who challenge library materials have typically not read or viewed the item in its entirety and do not see the disputed content within its full context (Berstein, 1996).

The most challenged materials in Canadian public libraries are about sex and homosexual relations (Curry, 1999; Schrader & Wells, 2007). For example, a Canadian GLBTQ newspaper, Xtra! West, was one of two items which received more than one challenge during 2010 (Schrader, Bowman, & Samek, 2011). Furthermore, over fifty percent of librarians in British Columbia have experienced challenges towards Xtra! West and other GLBTQ periodicals due to the representation of alternative sexualities (Curry, 2000). Other GLBTQ materials, such as children’s books which describe families with homosexual parents or young adult novels with homosexual protagonists, have experienced numerous challenges in Canadian public libraries (Reiman & Greenblatt, 2011; Howard, 2005).

How Can Public Librarians Respond?


Surrey Public Library’s display for Freedom to Read Week, 2012. GBLTQ resources could be added to the display to enable the exploration of GLBTQ censorship. The image was photographed by the author of this wiki article (Bailey, 2012b).

The first step to improving public library services for GLBTQ youth, and thus limiting censorship and challenges, is awareness (Ritchie & McNeill, 2011). It is important that librarians remain aware of the characteristics and information needs of GLBTQ youth (Ritchie & McNeill, 2011). GLBTQ youth are a diverse group and are not one dimensional – youth who identify as homosexual, bisexual, transsexual, or questioning have multiple information needs and cannot be characterized as one monolithic group (Ritchie & McNeill, 2011). Thus, providing access to diverse electronic and print materials is essential while serving GLBTQ youth in Canadian public libraries (Ritchie & McNeill, 2011).

Librarians in Canadian public libraries should be aware of their own personal biases when selecting materials for acquisition, cataloguing, and providing reference interviews (Martin & Murdock, 2007). Self-censorship may be lessened if public librarians are cognizant of how their actions impact GLBTQ youth (Martin & Murdock, 2007). Librarians should question their own behaviours in order to ensure that they are supporting the CLA’s Bill of Rights which stresses intellectual freedom and access to all types of knowledge (as cited in Curry, 1999). GLBTQ materials should not be hidden on the shelves but incorporated into the everyday life of public libraries, including exhibits, displays, and reading advisory services (Martin & Murdock, 2007). The public library’s main website could include lists on recent GLBTQ acquisitions and information related to GLBTQ issues (Schrader & Wells, 2007).

Public librarians should know the impact of Internet filters and how to remove them at their institutions (Holt, 2011). Librarians should be aware that the public library’s filtering programs greatly hinder GLBTQ youth who rely on the Internet as a source of information and social support (Holt, 2011). Public libraries’ filtering programs should reflect the information policies of the library, be monitored for accuracy by library staff, and be disabled by librarians when the need arises (Holt, 2011).


It is important that public librarians connect with their users and surrounding community organizations (de la Pena McCook, 2011). Librarians must be aware of the information needs of their patrons in order to sufficiently serve them (de la Pena McCook, 2011). GLBTQ youth often do not ask librarians for assistance nor check out library books as they prefer to read anonymously in the stacks (Alexander & Miselis, 2007). However, librarians could gain information on the needs of GLBTQ youth through anonymously surveying library users (Martin & Murdock, 2007). Librarians may also network with nearby GLBTQ community centres to receive recommendations for library acquisitions and support in exhibitions, displays, and book talks (Martin & Murdock, 2007). The Internet is a useful location for information in conservative or rural environments which lack GLBTQ support groups (Schrader & Wells, 2007). Useful websites for librarians include Library Journal, Lambda Literary, The Gay & Lesbian Review, and the Rainbow Book List (Ritchie & McNeill, 2011).


Policies are one of the most significant methods for librarians to limit rates of censorship and challenges at Canadian public libraries (Schrader, 2009). Library policies should be premised on rights held within the Canadian constitution and emphasize equality and intellectual freedom (Schrader, 2009). Librarians should view policies as a form of protection for diverse materials within their library’s collections and services (Schrader, 2009). Policies should reflect the possible evolution of demographics in a library’s surrounding community, selection criteria and development, access to the Internet, and how to respond to challenges (Schrader, 2009). A policy which is wide ranging and recognizes diversity and equality would permit the library to establish and retain a GLBTQ collection and Internet access with limited censorship and unfounded challenges (Schrader, 2009).

The Surrey Public Library Policy Manual stands as a model for appropriate policies concerning intellectual freedom and collection (Surrey Public Library, 2009). Surrey Public Library (2009) states that their mission is to provide access to a diverse range of topics and ideas while supporting intellectual freedom. Surrey Public Library (2009) also references the 1982 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and states that their collection is developed in order to represent local and international views on issues. Thus, Surrey Public Library’s (2009) policies would support their organization in the occurrence of a challenge or claim for censorship.

Steps if Challenged

It is essential that librarians have policies and plans to follow when one of the GLBTQ resources held by their public library is challenged by a member of the community (Martin & Murdock, 2007). All library staff should be trained on how to address challenges before one occurs (Martin & Murdock,2007). Thus, the following are important steps which should act as a guideline for public librarians confronted with challenges and censorship concerns on GLBTQ resources.

Have up-to-date collection development and book challenge policies (Alexander & Miselis, 2007).

Librarians should have formal written policies stating that materials representing diverse viewpoints are collected to serve the information needs of all community members (Becker, 2010). There should also be policies which define intellectual freedom and how to address book challenges (Becker, 2010). Policies which are frequently reviewed and updated illustrate that the public library is accountable for its actions and provides a standardized method to address public concerns (Becker, 2010). Sometimes the mere presentation of a written policy will quiet a user who wishes to challenge a library item (Becker, 2010).

Have positive reviews of GLBTQ resources from accredited sources (Alexander & Miselis, 2007).

It is important to show library users why an item was selected and that others within the profession find merit in a particular resource (Alexander & Miselis, 2007). Positive published reviews of GLBTQ items can act as evidence of a librarian’s quest to find suitable materials for the library (Alexander & Miselis, 2007).

Have the library user fill a written complaint (Becker, 2010).

Filing a written complaint should only be done if the user does not agree with material in the collection after a discussion with staff and presentation of collection and freedom of information policies (Becker, 2010). The user may write a written complaint documenting what segment of the resource causes it to be unsuitable for the library, how much of the book they read, and their name and address (Martin & Murdock, 2007). The written form will be reviewed by the library’s governing body (Becker, 2010). The library’s governing body’s decision must be supplied to the library user (Becker, 2010).

Attend a challenge hearing (Becker, 2010).

If the library user remains unsatisfied with the library’s governing body’s decision a public hearing may take place (Becker, 2010). Librarians should contact the media and members within society to locate individuals who will be willing to attend and discuss the importance of intellectual freedom during the hearing (Becker, 2010). The library’s governing body will announce its final decision during their next meeting after the hearing (Becker, 2010).


Alexander, L. B. & Miselis, S. D. (2007). Barriers to GLBTQ collection development and strategies for overcoming them. Young Adult Library Services, 5 (3), 43-49. Retrieved from: http://www.alaorg/yalsa/

Becker, B. (2010). Preparing for and responding to challenges. In office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association (Ed.), Intellectual freedom manual. Eighth edition (pp. 375-385). Chicago: American Library Association.

Bernstein, S. (1996). When the censor comes: A guide for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and others who disseminate the printed word. Toronto: Book and Periodical Council.

Carmichael, J. V. (2002). Effects of the gay publishing boom on classes of titles retrieved under the subject headings “homosexuality,” “gay men,” and “gays” in the OCLC WorldCat database. Journal of Homosexuality, 42(3), 65-88. Retrieved 20 February 2012 from:

Curry, A. (2000). Collection management of gay / lesbian materials in the UK and Canada. LIBRI, 50 (1), 14-25. Retrieved from:

Curry, A. (2005). If I ask, will they answer? Evaluating public library reference service to gay and lesbian youth. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 45 (1), 65-75. Retrieved from:

Curry, A. (1997). The limits of tolerance: Censorship and intellectual freedom in public libraries. Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press, Inc.

Curry, A. (1999). Walking the tightrope: Management of censorship attempts in Canadian libraries. In K. Petersen & A. C. Hutchinson (Eds.), Interpreting censorship in Canada (pp. 182-198). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

de la Pena McCook, K. (2011). Introduction to public librarianship. Second edition. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc.

Department of Justice Canada. (2012). Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Retrieved 1 March 2012 from:

Downey, J. (2005). Public library collection development issues regarding the information needs of GLBTQ patrons. Progressive Librarian, 25, 86-95. Retrieved from:

Feather, J. (2004). The information society: A study of continuity and change. London: Facet Publsihing.

The Gay & Lesbian Review. (2012). Home. Retrieved 3 March 2012 from:

Gough, C. & Greenblatt, E. (2011) Barriers to selecting materials about sexual and gender diversity. In E. Greenblatt (Ed.), Serving LGBTIQ library and archives users: Essays on outreach, service, collections and access (pp. 165-173). Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers.

Greenblatt, E. (2011). The Internet and LGBTIQ communities. In E. Greenblatt (Ed.), Serving LGBTIQ library and archives users: Essays on outreach, service, collections and access (pp. 42-50). Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers.

Greyson, D. (2007). GLBTQ content in comics / graphic novels for teens. Collection Building, 26 (4), 130-134. DOI: 10.1108/01604950710831942.

Holt, B. (2011). LGBTIQ teens – plugged in and unfiltered: How Internet filtering impairs construction of online communities, identity formation, and access to health information. In E. Greenblatt (Ed.), Serving LGBTIQ library and archives users: Essays on outreach, service, collections and access (pp. 266-277). Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers.

Houghton-Jan, S. (2010). Internet Filtering. Library Technology Reports, 46(8), 25-33. Retrieved 6 April 2011 from:

Howard, V. (2005). Out of the closet… but not on the shelves? An analysis of Canadian public libraries’ holdings of gay-themed picture books. Progressive Librarian, 25, 62-75. Retrieved from:

Lambda Literary. (2012). Reviews. Retrieved 3 March 2012 from:

Library Journal. (2012). Reviews. Retrieved 3 March 2012 from:

Martin, H.J. (2006). A library outing: Serving queer and questioning teens. Young Adult Library Services, 4 (4), 38-39. Retrieved from:

Martin, H. J. Jr. & Murdock, J. R. (2007). Serving lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning Teens: A how-to-do-it manual for librarians. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc.

Morgan, C. D. (2010). Challenges and issues today. In office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association (Ed.), Intellectual freedom manual. Eighth edition (pp. 37-46). Chicago: American Library Association.

Petersen, K. (1999). Censorship! Or is it? In K. Petersen & A. C. Hutchinson (Eds.), Interpreting censorship in Canada (pp. 3-18). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Rainbow Book List : GLBTQ Books for Children & Teens. (2012). Home. Retrieved 3 March 2012 from:

Reiman, L. & Greenblatt, E. (2011). Censorship of children’s and young adult books in schools and public libraries. In E. Greenblatt (Ed.), Serving LGBTIQ library and archives users: Essays on outreach, service, collections and access (pp. 247-265). Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers.

Ritchie, C. & McNeill, D. (2011). LGBTIQ issues in public libraries. In E. Greenblatt (Ed.), Serving LGBTIQ library and archives users: Essays on outreach, service, collections and access (pp. 59-69). Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers.

Schrader, A., Bowman, D., & Samek, T. (2011). Challenges to Canadian library resources and policies in 2010: Report of the annual survey of Intellectual Freedom Committee, Canadian Library Association. Retrieved 20 February 2012 from:

Schrader, A. (2009). Challenging silence, challenging censorship, building resilience: LGBTQ services and collections in public, school, and post-secondary libraries. Feliciter 55 (3), 107-109. Retrieved from:

Schrader, A. & Wells, K. (2007). Challenging silence, challenging censorship: Inclusive resources, strategies and policy directives for addressing bisexual, gay, lesbian, trans-identified and two spirited realities in school and public libraries. Ottawa: Canadian Teachers’ Federation.

Surrey Public Library. (2009). Surrey Public Library policy manual. Retrieved 29 February 2012 from:

Whitaker, R. (1999). Chameleon on changing background: The politics of censorship in Canada. In K. Petersen & A. C. Hutchinson (Eds.), Interpreting censorship in Canada (pp. 19-39). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

All images were taken personally by the author of this wiki article.

Bailey, C. (2012a). GLBTQ censorship. Taken 3 April 2012.

Bailey, C. (2012b). Surrey Public Library: Freedom to Read Week, 2012. Taken 29 February 2012.

The photos have been compressed through the use of
Picnik, an online application:

Picnik. (2012). Home. Retrieved 3 April 2012 from:

Censorship Issues in School Libraries

Censorship Issues in School Libraries
by Shannon Mills

Censorship can occur “anytime a book or other library material is removed from its intended audience”[1]. Libraries often face challenges from patrons who desire to have material they find offensive removed from the collection. 139 challenges to materials were reported in Canadian libraries in 2009 [2], and 348 challenges to materials were reported in US libraries in 2010[3].

Furthermore, an estimated 85 percent of challenges are unreported and receive no media attention[4]. The CLA Statement on Intellectual Freedom claims it “is the responsibility of libraries to guarantee and facilitate access to all expressions of knowledge and intellectual activity, including those which some elements of society may consider to be unconventional, unpopular or unacceptable”[5]. According to Article III of ALA’s Library Bill of Rights, “libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment”[6].

This article discusses how to spot a censor, some of the unique challenges associated with a school library setting, the issue of self censorship, and censorship through internet access. Best practices are introduced for school librarians or staff to reference when facing a challenge. Finally, some notable banned books are listed and additional resources for further education are suggested. This wiki is intended for school librarians, but would be helpful for anyone working in a school library, including paraprofessionals and teachers. For a more detailed discussion of censorship in public libraries see Censoring Sexuality: GLBTQ Resources in Public Libraries.


• 1 The Censor
• 2 School Library Setting
o 2.1 Unique Challenges
o 2.2 Importance of Diversity
• 3 Self-Censorship by School Librarians
o 3.1 Labeling and Reshelving
o 3.2 Alternative Formats
• 4 Internet Access
o 4.1 Filtering
o 4.2 Restricting Access to Online Tools
• 5 Best Practices
o 5.1 Education, Communication, and Preparation
o 5.2 Dealing With a Challenge
• 6 Notable Challenged Books
• 7 Additional Resources
• 8 References

The Censor

According to Freedom to Read’s guide When the Censor Comes, a censor usually:
• Denies being in favour of censorship
• Has rarely read the work in whole or often even in part
• Quotes excerpts out of context
• Demonizes the author and his/her other works[7]

Arizona Representative Jack Harper made news when he publically objected to several book titles he mistakenly assumed the school district was buying; however, he also noted in the online discussion board that he had not read any of the titles[8]. Material challenge forms usually ask the challenger to specify whether or not they have read the book, and what specific passages they find objectionable. Detailed and rigourous challenge forms can often deter the person with the complaint or cause them to educate themselves more fully with the material in the hopes they will recognize value and literary merit. Challenges can come from concerned parents, guardians, students, teachers, administration, or special interest groups.

School Library Setting

The ALA asserts that the Library Bill of Rights applies equally to all libraries, including school library media programs[9]. Students have the right to access resources that “create an atmosphere of free inquiry”[9], that are diverse in their expressions of political, social, and religious views, and that foster creative thought and healthy debate. In an alarming trend, teaching assistants accounted for 1/3 of all material challenges in Canadian libraries in 2009[2]. Part of the reason for this increase in challenges among teaching staff is likely the de-professionalization of the school librarian position and the lack of knowledge about censorship and intellectual freedom in school settings. Canadian school libraries are being managed by fewer professionals with minimal training in intellectual freedom issues and selection tools[10]. In 2005, schools in Canada were staffed on average with a quarter-time teacher librarian[11]. Regardless of the level of their professional training, school library staff can educate themselves and their colleagues on the importance of students’ freedom of choice. There is a huge array of resources from various professional organizations to help teacher librarians and school library media specialists do so.

Unique Challenges

All libraries have the mandate to support intellectual freedom; however, school libraries have unique functions that can present challenges for school librarians. Unlike the public library, the school is required to act in loco parentis in regards to the health and safety of the child[12]. Often, parents assume this responsibility to protect the child extends to the selection of reading material, but this is not the case. Occasionally, if a parent does not want their child checking out certain materials, the librarian must comply; however, no one parent has the right to decide what materials other children should be denied access to. If a school has a mandate to collect materials for pleasure reading, censors are often concerned that these materials are not of a high literary quality or do not support curricular goals. School librarians often walk a tightrope act, balancing the expectations of parents, teachers, administration, and the school board[13]. Most importantly, school library staff are there to serve the interests of their students.

Importance of Diversity

Children and young adults are often looking for images of themselves reflected in the literature they read[14]. Reading about a protagonist they can identify with can positively affect children emotionally and developmentally. Vicarious reading experiences can also give students the exposure and insight into life experiences and worldviews they may not otherwise encounter. Reading about different lifestyles can foster empathy and critical thinking skills in students. This tolerance and ability to respect difference does not happen inherently in children; it needs to be promoted and encouraged[13]. Exposing children to a wide range of lifestyles and sometimes controversial expressions through literature is often accompanied by calls for censorship.

“Education implies the right of students to explore ideas and issues without interference from anyone, parent, or teacher, or administrator. Indoctrination implies the right to force onto students certain values determined by what purports to be the dominant culture. When the rights to inquire and question and even doubt are denied young people, education inevitably degenerates into indoctrination” – Ken Donelson[13]

Self-Censorship by School Librarians

Librarians can often be tempted to censor by selection. Books can be rejected based on budget, lack of demand, literary quality, limited shelf space, content, relevance to the community, and poor reviews. It is difficult to know when these criteria are used as legitimate selection tools or as an “excuse for self-censorship”[15]. Ultimately, fear of a challenge should not be used as a selection principle[16]. Although self-censorship is difficult to measure, Ken Coley and Nicholas Bellows have undertaken studies of school districts in Texas and Florida respectively that have demonstrated a significant lack of holdings of controversial, yet award winning and critically acclaimed, young adult book titles in school libraries[15][17]. In a School Library Journal survey, 70% of teacher librarians admitted to avoiding purchasing controversial titles because of fear of parent, administrative, community, and student backlash[1]. This fear is legitimate. In many cases, school librarians have lost administrative support, if not their job, over defending intellectual freedoms. Teacher librarians should not be doing the censor’s work, however, by removing a book from its intended audience before an actual complaint is even made[1].

Labeling and Reshelving

Labeling books with reading level or genre is a common practice librarians use to enhance ease of access that may, in fact, restrict students’ use of these materials. Labeling math books or fantasy books to define their content may cause kids to ignore certain books whose subject they deem uncool[18]. Librarians may consider the moving or re-shelving strategy an acceptable alternative to removing books from the collection[14]. Putting materials in a location where they are not as likely to be used is censoring. According to the ALA, when grade level and reading level restrictions are enforced, materials are shelved in restricted areas, and books are labeled, major barriers are erected between the students and the library material[9].

Alternative Formats

Librarians may also self-censor unintentionally when they ignore alternative formats that they are unfamiliar with. Materials such as zines or blogs may be appealing to kids and young adults, and should not be excluded simply because of the librarian’s lack of knowledge about the medium[19]. Incorporating more online resources, art, games, DVDs, audiobooks, photography, poetry, short stories, and plays into school collections can help nurture multiple learning styles and intelligences[20].

Internet Access

“Most people would not shut down an entire playground on the basis that children may get hurt” – Dianne DeLas Casas[21]


Another form of censorship that is incredibly relevant and prevalent today is the use of internet filters to limit websites, search engines, and collaborative tools students have access to at schools. In 2001, US Congress enacted CIPA, the Children’s Internet Protection Act, which made federal communications technology funding dependent on the adoption of an internet policy to guard against images that are obscene, pornographic, or harmful to children[22]. Unfortunately, many schools have created policies with extensive policies that block beyond what CIPA requires[23], including legitimate educational websites. In 2007, school librarian Karyn Storts-Brinks filed a lawsuit against her school district for using a filtering system that blocked access to the Human Rights Campaign website and the Gay and Lesbian Straight Education Network site, as well as any other sites that addressed gender and sexual orientation issues in a “positive and informative way”[24]. Many students are able to access the unfiltered internet either at home or through their phones. For these students, the searching experiences they have at school can be inauthentic and frustrating. For students whose only access to the internet is at school, internet filtering policies can restrict access to important sites, and prevent them from becoming savvy internet searchers.

Restricting Access to Online Tools

Many schools also limit access to social media, blogs, YouTube and other collaborative learning tools. Students are often not allowed to access their Facebook accounts because it can be disruptive and distracting. Policy is often guided by a fear that the internet is a haven for cyber bullies or child predators. What teacher librarians and educators are missing when they take this defensive stance towards social media is the chance to leverage tools that students are familiar with and enjoy using as “informal learning networks”[25]. ‘Through the use of web 2.0 tools, students have the chance to connect with other students on topics they are passionate about, become content and media producers of blog articles, YouTube videos, and podcasts, and become fluent in using information technologies they will most likely need to use in order to succeed academically, personally, and professionally. Students are not passive consumers of knowledge; students are more and more involved in collaborative problem solving and the creation of original content through connecting with a community of ideas and resources[23].

Best Practices

“When the education community sticks together while offering alternative material for those who are offended there’s little room for a complaint” – Chris Crutcher[26]

Education, Communication, and Preparation

• Write or update a selection policy that outlines your selection criteria, clarifies the review policy, outlines a digital access policy, includes a request for the reconsideration of materials form for concerned parents, administration, students, or staff to fill out, and is approved by the school board
• Communicate your library’s mandate and selection policy with school staff and administration
• Create allies with parents and make them aware of library events
• Create an Instructional Materials Review Committee with interested parties: parents, teachers, administrator, librarian, and school board member[27]
• Invite students and teachers to evaluate the collection to offset your own personal biases[18]
• Be prepared to defend a specific title when you know it is controversial
• Leverage student voices: have students suggest purchases and participate in intellectual freedom focused activities during Freedom to Read or Banned Books Week

Dealing With a Challenge

• Ensure you have read the challenged work in its entirety
• Bring materials to meetings with concerned parties: the challenged book, positive practitioner reviews, testimonials from kids about the merits of the book, your school or district selection policy
• Don’t be defensive or aggressive in tone
• Thank the parent or concerned party for their interest in the school library and their child’s education
• Try not to engage in a discussion over merits of the contested content of the work; emphasize instead the library’s mission to support intellectual freedom
• Keep records of all requests for reconsideration[27]
• Make the review process and chain of command for complaints clear should the parent wish to take further action

Notable Challenged Books

Many award winning and popular books have been challenged throughout the 20th and 21st century. 43 of the Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century have been banned or challenged in the US[28]. Below is a list of the ALA’s top 10 most frequently challenged books of 2010:

1. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
3. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
4. Crank, by Ellen Hopkins
5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
6. Lush, by Natasha Friend
7. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
8. Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich
9. Revolutionary Voices, edited by Amy Sonnie
10. Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer

Additional Resources

• ALA’s Interpretations of the Library Bill of Rights
• ALA’s Books Challenged or Banned in 2010-2011 and other years (downloadable PDFs)
• ALA’s Notable First Amendment Court Cases
• ALA’s Libraries and the Internet Toolkit
• ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Manual 8th ed.
• ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom
• ALA’s Most Frequently Challenged Authors of the 21st Century
• Banned Books 2011 from London Libraries
• Banned Books Week
• Banned Books Week Mapping Censorship
• Banned Books Week Virtual Read Out
• BCLA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee]
• Books on Censorship for Children and Teens
• Freedom to Read
• KidSPEAK! Where Kids Speak Up For Free Speech
• National Council of Teacher’s of English Guideline on Students’ Right to Read and Statements on Censorship
• Open Net Initiative


1. ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 Lau Whelan, Debra. (2009). A Dirty little secret: Self-censorship. School Library Journal. Retrieved from
2. ↑ 2.0 2.1 Schrader, Alvin M. (2010). Challenges to Canadian library resources and policies in 2009: Report of the annual survey of the advisory committee on intellectual freedom. Canadian Library Association. Retrieved from
3. ↑ American Library Association. (2012). Number of challenges by year, reason, initiator & institution (1990 – 2010). Retrieved from
4. ↑ Doyle, Robert P. (2012). Books challenged or banned in 2010-2011. Retrieved from ALA website:
5. ↑ Canadian Library Association. (1985). Canadian Library Association/Association canadienne des bibliothèques position statement on intellectual freedom. Retrieved from
6. ↑ American Library Association. (1996). Library bill of rights. Retrieved from
7. ↑ Bernstein, Sandra. (1996). When the censor comes: How to spot a would-be censor. Retrieved from Freedom to Read website:
8. ↑ Wang, Amy B. Form of school book censoring. USA Today. Retrieved from
9. ↑ 9.0 9.1 9.2 American Library Association. (2008). Access to resources and services in the school library media program: An interpretation of the library bill of rights. Retrieved from
10. ↑ Klausen, Claudia. (2007). Cuts to teacher-librarians: Effects on intellectual freedom and democracy. Teacher Librarian Today, 14(1), 9-15. Retrieved from
11. ↑ Edwards, Gail and Judith Saltman. (2010). Picturing Canada: a history of Canadian children’s illustrated books and publishing. Toronto: University of Toronto Publishing.
12. ↑ Shirley, Linda J. (n.d.) Intellectual freedom in school libraries. Retrieved from
13. ↑ 13.0 13.1 13.2 Boyd, F. B., & Bailey, N. M. (2009). Censorship in three metaphors. Journal Of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 52(8), 653-661.
14. ↑ 14.0 14.1 Curry, A. (2001). Where is Judy Blume? Controversial fiction for older children and young adults. Journal of Youth Services In Libraries, 14(3), 28-37.
15. ↑ 15.0 15.1 Coley, Ken P. (2002). Moving toward a method to test for self-censorship by school library media specialists. Retrieved from the American Association of School Librarians’ website:
16. ↑ Dickinson, G. (2007). The Question…what should I do if my principal orders me to remove an unchallenged book? Knowledge Quest, 36(2), 70-71.
17. ↑ Bellows, Nicholas K. (2005). Measuring self-censorship in school library media centers. Retrieved from
18. ↑ 18.0 18.1 Abilock, D. (2007). Four questions to ask yourself. Knowledge Quest. pp. 7-11.
19. ↑ Johnson, P. (2005). Editorial. Library Resources & Technical Services, 49(1), 3-6.
20. ↑ Shantz-Keresztes, Linda. (2002). School library collections: From here to eternity. School Libraries in Canada, 21(4), 9-11.
21. ↑ de Las Casas, D. (2010). “Tag! You’re it!”Playing on the digital playground. Knowledge Quest, 39(1), 80-82.
22. ↑ Federal Communications Commission. Children’s internet protection act. Retrieved from
23. ↑ 23.0 23.1 Jansen, B. A. (2010). Internet filtering 2.0: Checking intellectual freedom and participative practices at the schoolhouse door. Knowledge Quest, 39(1), 46-53.
24. ↑ Storts-Brinks, K. (2010). Censorship online: One school librarian’s journey to provide access to LGBT resources. Knowledge Quest, 39(1), 22-28.
25. ↑ Watkins, S. Craig. (2012). What schools are really blocking when they block social media. Retrieved from
26. ↑ Halls, M. (2011). The Challenge of protecting free speech. Voice of Youth Advocates, 34(2), 130.
27. ↑ 27.0 27.1 Martin, A. M. (2007). Preparing for a challenge. Knowledge Quest, 36(2), 54-56.
28. ↑ American Library Association. (2012). Banned and/or challenged books from the Radcliffe publishing course top 100 novels of the 20th century. Retrieved from

Bill C-11: A Guide for Academic Instructors

Bill C-11: A Guide for Academic Instructors
by Devin Soper

Bill C-11 is poised to change Canadian copyright law in important ways, and these changes promise to have a significant impact on the copyright environment at academic institutions. This article outlines the amendments that are most likely to affect academic instructors, speculates about their practical implications, and addresses some of the main controversies concerning the act as a whole. Moreover, this article examines these topics strictly in terms of the best interests of academic instructors, and thus avoids the broader debate about whether the amendments constitute good public policy or are in the interests of Canadian society, more generally. This approach is directly relevant to the work of academic librarians, who are often called upon to inform instructors about copyright issues, and who act as instructors themselves during information literacy instruction. While the ensuing discussion is far from comprehensive, it aims to provide a broad overview of the main issues and the potential implications for everyday instructional practice.


Bill C-11 aims to update Canada’s Copyright Act to accommodate the massive technological changes that have transpired since the Act was last amended in 1997 (Lithwick & Thibodeau, 2011). If passed, Bill C-11 will introduce a number of new educational provisions that promise to expand the rights and exceptions afforded to academic instructors. At the time of writing, the Bill has passed through committee and is expected to become law by summer. (Geist, 2012).

The Copyright Act includes a number of exceptions that delineate the conditions under which individuals can use a copyrighted work without the permission of the copyright holder. The most expansive of these exceptions is fair dealing, which identifies a number of specific purposes for which copyrighted works can be used without permission, including private study, research, criticism, review, and news reporting. The fair dealing exception only applies if the use in question is “fair,” however, and the Copyright Act provides no guidelines for determining the fairness of a given use. We will return to this issue shortly, but, for now, suffice it to say that Bill C-11 would add education (as well as parody and satire) to the list of fair dealing categories.
In addition to fair dealing, the Copyright Act includes more specific exceptions that are only available to educational institutions, and Bill C-11 contains numerous amendments that promise to make these exceptions more permissive for academic instructors (Geist, 2010). Apart from amendments that revise existing exceptions to accommodate the use of new technologies, for instance, there are also amendments that introduce new rights and exceptions around (1) the use of materials that are publicly available on the internet, (2) the transmission of lessons over the internet, and (3) the in-class display of films and news broadcasts (Industry Canada, 2011b).
Though they might sound entirely permissive, these educational provisions come with numerous requirements and limitations. Moreover, there is widespread concern that Bill C-11’s provisions concerning technological protection measures (TPMs or “digital locks”) will unduly restrict the rights and exceptions available to educators. We will address the controversy around the Bill’s TPM provisions at the end of this paper, after taking a closer look at the proposed changes to fair dealing and the special educational exceptions.

Fair Dealing Before Bill C-11

As mentioned above, Bill C-11 would expand the fair dealing exception to include the purpose of education (section 29). Of all the educational provisions contained in Bill C-11, this expansion is the most far-reaching and generally significant for academic instructors. Before considering the extent of this significance, it is necessary first to clarify some points about fair dealing itself.

Since the Copyright Act does not provide guidelines for determining fairness, the fair dealing exception has always been subject to differences of interpretation. That said, this ambiguity was at least partially attenuated by the Supreme Court of Canada’s (SCC) ruling in CCH Canadian Ltd. v. Law Society of Upper Canada (2004), a landmark case that did much to clarify the official legal interpretation of fair dealing. The SCC ruling held that the exception “is a user’s right,” and that it “must not be interpreted restrictively” (para. 48). Further, the SCC stipulated that determinations of fair dealing involve a two-part test: in order to qualify as fair dealing, the use in question must not only fall under an existing fair dealing category (e.g., research or criticism), but also be shown to be fair (Geist, 2010).

Since the meaning of “fairness” is dependent on an array of different variables, the SCC did not attempt to provide a specific definition, but instead endorsed a six-part analytical framework “to govern determinations of fairness in future cases” (CCH, para. 53). According to this framework, determinations of fairness depend on the following six factors: “(1) the purpose of the dealing; (2) the character of the dealing; (3) the amount of the dealing; (4) alternatives to the dealing; (5) the nature of the work; and (5) the effect of the dealing on the work” (para. 53). While this framework does little to remove the ambiguity inherent in the concept of fairness, the SCC’s ruling, and particularly its description of the fair dealing exception as a right that “must not be interpreted restrictively,” has nonetheless helped to bolster confidence in the strength and flexibility of the exception itself.

Fair Dealing After Bill C-11

Fair dealing for the purpose of education will still be subject to the six-part analytical framework for determining fairness (Geist, 2010). In other words, the proposed expansion of fair dealing would permit the use of a copyrighted work for the purposes of education, but only provided that the use is fair. This proviso is important because it will place substantial limits on the ways in which academic instructors can use copyrighted works, even if these uses are unequivocally for the purpose of education.
To illustrate this point, one need only look to the fair dealing guidelines that many academic institutions already provide for persons working under their authority. These guidelines are intended to alleviate some of the uncertainty involved in determining the fairness of a given use, and, to that end, they typically outline the conditions under which copying is permitted and place specific limits on how much material can be reproduced. Since these guidelines are also intended to minimize the risk of litigation for copyright infringement, they tend to be based on conservative interpretations of fair dealing rights, and the limits that they impose are often quite restrictive (Trosow, 2010).

When Bill C-11 becomes law, these guidelines will be expanded to provide guidance on fair dealing for the purpose of education. Academic institutions will therefore play an important role in determining the significance of educational fair dealing to everyday instructional practice. If current policy is any indication, then the new guidelines will likely place many limits on the kind and extent of copying permitted in particular situations. While these guidelines could potentially alleviate much uncertainty in the minds of instructors, moreover, they will doubtless be far from comprehensive, and so instructors will still regularly be required to evaluate the fairness with which they are using a copyrighted work.

Practical Implications for Academic Instructors

Since Bill C-11 has yet to become law and academic institutions have yet to release new guidelines, any attempt to discuss the practical implications of educational fair dealing is arguably premature. Further, it is difficult to speculate about these implications in anything but the most abstract terms, as there is likely to be considerable variation between the copyright environments that develop at different institutions (Wilkinson, 2010), and there are of course numerous criteria to consider in establishing the fairness of each particular case. Despite these obstacles, however, it would perhaps be instructive to identify at least one broad category of use that may stand to benefit from educational fair dealing, depending on how the new legislation is interpreted.

One of the most important categories for academic instructors is the use of copyrighted images (including figures and illustrations). At the moment, academic instructors are permitted to use copyrighted images in presentation slides that they display on campus, but they are generally prohibited from reproducing or distributing such images in print or electronic copies of their slides, unless they first obtain permission from the relevant copyright holders. Because the fair dealing exception currently includes the purposes of criticism and review, instructors could theoretically distribute copies of slides containing copyrighted images, but only provided that they critique or review the images in a substantial way, and that their use of the images meets a number of other conditions, besides. In practice, however, this exception is currently of little use to academic instructors, who tend not to include substantial written commentary about each of the images in their slides, and who are far more likely to use images to support the content of their lessons and make the educational experience more engaging for their students. While the reproduction of images for these purposes is currently outside the purview of the fair dealing exception, such reproduction will likely qualify as fair dealing for the purpose of education, provided that it meets the criteria for fairness discussed earlier (Geist, 2010).

That said, the ambiguity of these criteria (and the consequent uncertainty about the distinction between fair dealing and infringement) is precisely what has led academic institutions to adopt conservative, risk-averse fair dealing policies in the past; and so, even if the use of images described above would theoretically qualify for educational fair dealing, it might nonetheless be prohibited by the policies in place at a particular institution. Although the expansion of fair dealing will open up the possibility of new and significant changes to the copyright environments at academic institutions, then, it is presently impossible to predict precisely how the practical implications of educational fair dealing will unfold.

Special Exceptions for Educational Institutions

In addition to the fair dealing exception, the Copyright Act includes a number of special exceptions available to educational institutions and individuals acting under their authority. The amendments in Bill C-11 would not only revise many of these exceptions, but also introduce a number of new special exceptions for educational institutions. For academic instructors, there is a sense in which many of these exceptions would be redundant, as the uses that they cover would in many cases already be covered under the expanded fair dealing exception discussed above. Indeed, this overlap has led some commentators to contend that Bill C-11 would be considerably more useful if it provided a more robust articulation of the fair dealing exception, instead of providing a series of complex (and extensively qualified) special exceptions (Trosow, 2010). From a different perspective, others have argued that these exceptions are still useful insofar as they provide a legislative “safe harbour”—such that, if a particular use were determined not to qualify as fair dealing, it might still be covered by one of the special exceptions (Trosow, 2010). Given the ambiguity around the criteria for determining fairness, it stands to reason that many academic instructors would value the certainty afforded by the special exceptions, even if this certainty comes at the expense of rights that they would theoretically be entitled to under fair dealing.

Use of Publicly Available Online Materials

Of the special educational exceptions that Bill C-11 would introduce, the exception concerning the use of publicly available online materials (section 30.04) is perhaps the most widely discussed. This exception would allow academic instructors to reproduce and communicate works that are publicly available on the internet, provided that the audience is comprised primarily of students (or other individuals under the institution’s authority), and that the works in question are (1) legitimately posted by the copyright holders, (2) not accompanied by a statement prohibiting such reproduction, and (3) not protected by TPMs (Lithwick & Thibodeau, 2011).

Although this exception seems like it would benefit academic instructors, and although it has enjoyed a largely favourable reception from prominent voices in the higher-education sector, there is some uncertainty around the wording of the exception, and the extent of its actual utility is debateable (Trosow, 2010). For instance, the qualification concerning notices of prohibition provides content creators with an easy means of circumventing the exception entirely, and, since Bill C-11 does not stipulate what might constitute a sufficiently visible notice, it is unclear whether content creators would need to mark individual works with a notice, or whether they could simply include a single statement on a “terms of use” page (or equivalent). Moreover, it is unclear to what extent the uses covered by this exception would already qualify as fair dealing for the purpose of education (Trosow, 2010). Insofar as this exception helps to make explicit some of the uses that would likely be permitted under fair dealing, and insofar as it provides an additional layer of protection for academic institutions, however, it certainly does seem like good news for academic instructors.

Online Transmission of Lessons

Bill C-11 would introduce another special educational exception for the online transmission of lessons (section 30.01). This exception would allow educational institutions and persons acting under their authority to create “fixations” (including recordings) of lessons and to transmit these fixations to students over the internet, provided that the institution not only destroys the fixation within 30 days after students have received their final course evaluations, but also takes measures to prevent students from reproducing more than a single copy of the lesson for personal use—a copy which each student would also be obligated destroy by the above 30-day deadline (Lithwick & Thibodeau, 2011).

Since this exception applies to lessons that contain copyrighted works, it effectively extends the existing exception for in-class display to the digital environment, providing distance-education instructors and students with a similar set of rights as those that have long been enjoyed in the classroom. It is unclear how the requirements of this exception will play out in practice, but the wording suggests that instructors will need to create new fixations for each iteration of a course, and that students will be required to destroy a significant portion of their learning materials shortly after completing a course (Brunet & Gray, 2010; Trosow, 2010). While the sentiment behind this exception may be commendable, then, the exception’s numerous requirements seem overly restrictive, and are emphatically not in the best interests of academic instructors or their students.

Amendments to Existing Educational Exceptions

Bill C-11 also includes a number of amendments to existing educational exceptions, most of which aim to make these exceptions more permissive and technologically accommodating. The amendment to the exception concerning public performances (section 29.5) will likely be the most significant for academic instructors, as it introduces a new subsection that would allow instructors to display films and other cinematographic works in class, provided that the works have been acquired legitimately (Industry Canada, 2011a). At the moment, instructors can only do this with films or videos that come with public performance rights, that have been licensed for the purpose of classroom display, or that are displayed in a way that meets the requirements for fair dealing. Coupled with the new exception for use of publicly available online materials, then, this amendment will help to lift the restrictions that currently prevent academic instructors from displaying much of the valuable educational content available through video-hosting websites like Youtube.

The other amendments to existing exceptions are less significant: the exception for classroom display (section 29.4) has been amended to remove references to outdated technologies—and will thereby officially legitimize the already widespread practice of displaying presentation slides and other course materials on modern video projectors—and the exception for classroom use of news broadcasts (section 29.6) has been amended to allow instructors to keep recordings for more than a year without having to pay royalties (Lithwick & Thibodeau, 2011).

Fair Dealing and Technological Prevention Measures (TPMs)

One of the main controversies surrounding Bill C-11 concerns the question of whether the Bill’s TPM provisions (section 41) will trump its educational provisions, including both the fair dealing exception and some of the special exceptions afforded to educational institutions. On the one hand, there are many who hold that the TPM provisions do trump the educational provisions, and that this situation threatens to negate the Bill’s more progressive elements. This group is comprised mainly of concerned educators, librarians, and students, and is arguably championed by Michael Geist. On the other hand, there are also many legal professionals who argue that the relationship between the Bill’s TPM provisions and educational provisions is too complex to cast in such totalizing terms (Gannon, 2011a; Gannon, 2011b; Glover, 2011; McCutcheon, 2011; Sookman, 2010; Sookman, 2011).
Among the points raised by this second group is that Bill C-11 distinguishes between copy-control TPMs and access-control TPMs, and that, while the Bill unilaterally prohibits circumvention of the latter, it permits circumvention of the former for uses that are in accordance with the Bill’s educational provisions. These categories of TPMs encompass a range of different technologies, but the primary difference between them is adequately conveyed by their names: access-control TPMs restrict access to works (e.g., through password protection), whereas copy-control TPMs restrict copying (e.g., through digital rights management technologies that prevent users from making copies of e-books). In explaining the practical implications of this distinction, Gannon (2011a) provides a helpful example:

[Fair dealing] allows users to make fair copies of portions of a work for certain purposes. It does not grant any user a right to free access to that work. A researcher must still legally obtain access to a work in order to make a fair dealing copy. . . . For example, if an academic article was only being provided behind a “paywall” (where the reader must pay a certain amount to access the article), users desiring to make fair dealing copies would still have to pay to access the article. However, once the content is legally accessed or acquired, users could circumvent any technology that prevents them from making fair dealing copies of the text of the article.

This same point has been made by other members of the second camp identified above (Glover, 2011; Sookman, 2010; Sookman, 2011), and it suggests that the intention behind the TPM provisions is not to stifle fair dealing and other educational exceptions, but rather to help ensure that copyright holders receive fair compensation for their work. The members of this second camp also point out that Bill C-11 includes a section (41.21) that allows the government to swiftly introduce supplementary regulations that clarify how the TPM provisions are applied, and to do so specifically in the event that these provisions hamper uses that are legitimately covered under fair dealing (Gannon, 2011a; Gannon, 2011b; McCutcheon, 2011; Sookman, 2010). Although Bill C-11 prohibits the circumvention of access-control TPMs, moreover, academic instructors are already accustomed to accessing works protected by such controls through the legitimate channels provided by their institutions, and so it seems reasonable to suggest that this prohibition will likely have a minimal impact on their everyday instructional practice (Gannon, 2011b). Against all this, Geist (2010) has argued that access- and copy-control TPMs are often bundled together (notably on ebooks and DVDs), but this is not always the case, as different companies employ different models of digital rights management, and so overcoming this particular obstacle might in many cases be as simple as purchasing from a different vendor.

While it remains to be seen how this will all play out in practice, then, it would be premature to dismiss the more progressive elements of Bill C-11 on the basis that its TPM provisions will under certain circumstances trump its educational provisions. And, on a more practical note, it is worth mentioning that this controversy has little bearing on the categories of works that currently raise the most copyright concerns for academic instructors: namely, images and film/video, both of which are widely available online in forms that are not protected by any TPMs whatsoever.


On the whole, Bill C-11’s educational provisions bode well for academic instructors, as they include a number of rights and exceptions that are not currently available to instructors under Canadian copyright law. The expansion of fair dealing to include the purpose of education, the new special exceptions for the use of publicly available online materials and the online transmission of lessons, the broadening of existing exceptions to accommodate the use of new technologies—all of these changes promise to ease the restrictions around the use of copyrighted materials for educational purposes. Although these changes certainly look promising on paper, it is difficult to predict the extent to which they will contribute to a more permissive copyright environment for academic instructors, as academic institutions have yet to provide any indication of how they will interpret Bill C-11’s educational provisions, and there is also considerable uncertainty over the practical implications of the Bill’s TPM provisions. Despite these areas of uncertainty, however, academic instructors have every reason to be hopeful, as there is little doubt that Bill C-11 will have a positive impact on their everyday instructional practice, even if the extent of this impact is presently unclear.


Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. (2010). AUCC welcomes new copyright bill. Retrieved from

Bill C-11: An Act to amend the Copyright Act. 1st Sess., 40th Parl., First reading 29 September 2011. Retrieved from

Brunet, C., & Gray, B. W. (2010). Proposed amendments to the Canadian Copyright Act. Retrieved from

Canadian Association of University Teachers. (2010). Copyright bill restricts user rights, research and innovation. Retrieved from

Canadian Association of University Teachers (2011). CAUT guidelines for the use of copyrighted material. Retrieved from

Canadian Library Association. (2010). Canadian Library Association gives passing grade to new copyright legislation: User rights still tempered by digital locks. Retrieved from

CCH Canadian Ltd. v. Law Society of Upper Canada, 2004 SCC 13, [2004] 1 S.C.R. 339. Retrieved from

Gannon, J. (2011a). Bill C-11, digital locks and TPMs: A comprehensive guide for Canadian copyright law. Retrieved from

Gannon, J. (2011b). Why the “digital lock” rules in Bill C-11 will not have any impact on fair dealing in the education community. Retrieved from

Geist, M. (2010). Clearing up the copyright confusion: Fair dealing and Bill C-32. Retrieved from

Geist, M. (2012). Bill C-11 committee review concludes: What happened and what comes next. Retrieved from

Glover, D. (2011). A response to professor Michael Geist’s clearing up the copyright confusion. Retrieved from’s-clearing-up-the-copyright-confusion/

Industry Canada. (2011a). Copyright Modernization Act — backgrounder. Retrieved from

Industry Canada. (2011b). What the Copyright Modernization Act means for teachers and students. Retrieved from

Lithwick, D., & Thibodeau, M. O. (2011). Legislative summary of Bill C-11. Retrieved from

McCutcheon, M. A. (2011). Copyright course review: Bill C-11, fair dealing, and the meaning of research. Retrieved from

Sookman, B. (2010). An FAQ on TPMs, copyright and Bill C-32. Retrieved from

Sookman, B. (2011). Some observations on Bill C-11: The Copyright Modernization Act. Retrieved from

Trosow, S. E. (2010). Bill C-32 and the educational sector: Overcoming impediments to fair dealing. In M. Geist (Ed.), From “radical extremism” to “balanced copyright” : Canadian copyright and the digital agenda (pp. 541-568). Toronto: Irwin Law.

University of British Columbia. (2011). Copyright guidelines for UBC faculty, staff, and students. Retrieved March 20, 2012, from

University of British Columbia. (2011). Fair dealing guidelines for members of the UBC community. Retrieved March 20, 2012, from

University of British Columbia. (n.d.). Campus classroom FAQ. Retrieved from

Wilkinson, M. A. (2010). Copyright, collectives, and contracts: New math for educational institutions and libraries. In M. Geist (Ed.), From “radical extremism” to “balanced copyright” : Canadian copyright and the digital agenda (pp. 503-540). Toronto: Irwin Law.

Access Copyright update: Howard Knopf and Techdirt

More on AUCC’s bizarre cave-in to Access copyright from:

Howard Knopf


Libraries support free access to information like no other organization…

This great quote is from BCLA President Chris Kevlahan in this Vancouver Sun article on the impact of the federal government cutting the Community Access Program. The single computer in the Alert Bay public library was used more than a thousand times last year, and had received less than a thousand dollars in funding. It is small communities like this that will be hurt the most by these cuts.

Bravo to Harvard Faculty on strong statement about unsustainability of current scholarly publishing and support for transition to open access

It’s official! No university or library can afford all those expensive subscription journals – not even Harvard!  See this strong statement issued today.

The Faculty Advisory Council to the Library, representing university faculty in all schools and in consultation with the Harvard Library leadership,  reached this conclusion: major periodical subscriptions, especially to electronic journals published by historically key providers, cannot be sustained: continuing these subscriptions on their current footing is financially untenable. Doing so would seriously erode collection efforts in many other areas, already compromised.

It is untenable for contracts with at least two major providers to continue on the basis identical with past agreements. Costs are now prohibitive. Moreover, some providers bundle many journals as one subscription, with major, high-use journals bundled in with journals consulted far less frequently. Since the Library now must change its subscriptions and since faculty and graduate students are chief users, please consider the following options open to faculty and students (F) and the Library (L), state other options you think viable, and communicate your views:

1. Make sure that all of your own papers are accessible by submitting them to DASH in accordance with the faculty-initiated open-access policies (F).

2. Consider submitting articles to open-access journals, or to ones that have reasonable, sustainable subscription costs; move prestige to open access (F).

3. If on the editorial board of a journal involved, determine if it can be published as open access material, or independently from publishers that practice pricing described above. If not, consider resigning (F).

4. Contact professional organizations to raise these issues (F).

5. Encourage professional associations to take control of scholarly literature in their field or shift the management of their e-journals to library-friendly organizations (F).

6. Encourage colleagues to consider and to discuss these or other options (F).

7. Sign contracts that unbundle subscriptions and concentrate on higher-use journals (L).

8. Move journals to a sustainable pay per use system, (L).

9. Insist on subscription contracts in which the terms can be made public (L).

Does Inclusion Matter for Open Government? Very much indeed!

Great post by Michael Gurstein on why inclusion matters for open government.

Tim Berners Lee urges government to stop the snooping bill


Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who serves as an adviser to the government on how to make public data more accessible, says the extension of the state’s surveillance powers would be a “destruction of human rights” and would make a huge amount of highly intimate information vulnerable to theft or release by corrupt officials. In an interview with the Guardian, Berners-Lee said: “The amount of control you have over somebody if you can monitor internet activity is amazing.

“You get to know every detail, you get to know, in a way, more intimate details about their life than any person that they talk to because often people will confide in the internet as they find their way through medical websites … or as an adolescent finds their way through a website about homosexuality, wondering what they are and whether they should talk to people about it.”