In response to LPL's proposed installation of Internet filters in the adult section of the library, Prof. Toni Samek, PhD. has written this letter, available at www.librarianactivist.org :
17 June 2007
Dear London Public Library Board,
By way of introduction, I am an Associate Professor at the School of Library & Information Studies, University of Alberta, where I have taught since 1994. I am the author of the books Intellectual Freedom and Social Responsibility in American Librarianship, 1967-1974 (McFarland Publishing, 2001) and Librarianship and Human Rights: A Twenty-first century guide (CHANDOS – Oxford – Publishing, 2007). I convene the Canadian Library Association’s Advisory Committee on Intellectual Freedom. I am a member of the Canadian Association of University Teacher’s Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee. I serve on the Book and Periodical Council’s Freedom of Expression Committee. I am a founding member and first convenor of the Association for Library and Information Science Education’s Information Ethics Special Interest Group. Given my background, I am writing to this letter in order to express my deep concern over the London Public Library’s movement to place a filter on some of the library’s adult Internet access stations. Please accept this statement as an informed request that you please reconsider this disturbing pending curtailment of freedoms in your community.
From the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and its human rights stance (as reflected in its myriad of statements, resolutions, and urgent press releases, including its Internet Manifesto), on down to the Canadian Library Association (CLA), intellectual freedom is the first core value of librarianship. It is encoded into the CLA Code of Ethics (1976), which first directs Canadian librarians to uphold the CLA Statement on Intellectual Freedom (1974). It is part and parcel of what librarians stand for, including those who live and labour under the Ontario Library Association (OLA) banner.
As professional librarians worldwide know all too well, Internet filters are notoriously semantically, technically, and ideologically flawed. All filters (and their creators and purveyors) both provide a false sense of security and are not favourable to minority groups and disenfranchised individuals (women, GLBTQ populations, radical thinkers, dissenters, suspect communities, women, the girl-child, and so on). The library must not condone this misleading form of technology with its embedded targeting. If you want your library to remain welcoming to all, then you will have a clear conscience with open Internet access. To move from this solid democratic ground, is to erode the role and standing of your library in your community – and by extension in the broader community.
The Canadian library community and its sister communities are watching this development closely. Because what you propose is not a small step down. It is the tip of a very slippery slope. What does the future hold for your collection, your meeting room use, and your sponsorships? Is your library one of the last bastions of public space in your community? How many other spaces in London exist where people are really supported in being true to themselves, no matter what their religion, thought, age, association, dissent, race, philosophy, gender, disability, sexual orientation, nation of origin, citizenship, class, ideology, and so on?
I would be more than pleased to work with your library staff in order to provide some professional development in the area of intellectual freedom and the paramount need for it in library rhetoric and practice at a time when the global community is threatened evermore by just the opposite. Indeed, Amnesty International has just released a warning that the Internet “could change beyond all recognition” unless action is taken against the erosion of online freedoms. This is termed a “virus of repression.” [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/6724531.stm] I urge you not to participate in the growing negative global campaign against the free flow of information. The free flow of information is a key condition for education. London Public Library should be as proactive as possible about providing current, quality, multilingual and multi-format sustained education for Internet use – and for as diverse a range of community members as possible. In the long run, those hands that work for lifelong education hold far more hands than those of censors.
Finally, I would like to point out that the CLA’s Statement on Intellectual Freedom directly references and supports the Canadian Charter. What more needs to be said?
Sincerely,Dr. Toni SamekSt. Albert, Alberta