Wednesday, November 24, 2010

FLIF Meeting!

Just a quick reminder that there is a FLIF meeting tomorrow (Thursday November 25th) at noon in Henderson Hall.

Hope to see you there! (There will be cookies)

Friday, November 12, 2010

ALA to Creates Award for LGBT Children's Books

The American Library Association has announced that it is adding the Stonewall Children's and Young Adult Literature Award to its slate of prizes for children's literature. The award will honor "English-language works for children and teens of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered experience." There has been a Stonewall award for adult books for 40 years, but until now, no corresponding prize for kids' lit. However, says ALA president Roberta Stevens,

Millions of children in this country are being raised by gay or lesbian parents. There are young people who are gay and sometimes they feel very alone. This is a real opportunity for youths who may be feeling alone to read about other like themselves.

Unfortunately gay kids and kids with gay parents hearing all too often that stories about their families are immoral, inappropriate or dirty (one parent called And Tango Makes Three "a homosexual storyline that has been sugar-coated with cute penguins"). Hopefully the Stonewall awards will send these kids a better message and lead to the publication of more great books with a diversity of people represented.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Thank-you FLIFers!

A huge thanks to all of the FLIF-ers who came out over the past two weeks to help us sort the many (many!) boxes of donated books in Henderson Hall and for our amazing volunteer team who helped out making Homeless Connect a success.            

 On Sunday, Oct 17th FLIF participated in Edmonton Homeless Connect where we distributed free books to the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless. Book donations were generously provided by EPL, the University of Alberta Libraries and FLIF members.

Our early morning team unloaded the truck and set up our booth and we kept the tables stocked throughout the day.

This is one of FLIF's biggest events of the year and we distributed over 20 boxes of books.

A huge thank you to everyone who participated and we hope to see you back for the next Homeless Connect in May 2011.

*all photos by Jorden and Shannon, your FLIF 2010/2011 co-chairs

Thursday, October 14, 2010

FLIF Book Sorting Pary

Don't forget that the FLIF book sorting party will be tomorrow (Friday Oct 15th) from noon until about 3 or 4pm (depending on how long it takes) in Henderson Hall.
We will be packing up a ton of materials for Homeless Connect this Sunday as well as our Community Bookshelf project.
Hope to see you tomorrow - even if you don't have time to sort some books stop by for some snacks and a quick chat, we would love to hear your ideas for FLIF for the upcoming year!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

CBC Bans the Use of Creative Commons Music on Podcasts

The producers of Spark, CBC radio’s digital culture show which has often used Creative Commons music in their broadcasts and podcasts have revealed that the public broadcaster has banned them from using CC music.

Evident from the excerpts of user comments from the Spark blog included below, the CBC has banned the use of CC licensed music from their podcasts because it goes “against some of the details in collective agreements [the CBC] hold(s) with certain talent agencies.”

In other words, groups are actively working to block the use of Creative Commons licensed materials in their contractual agreements. It is extremely problematic and discouraging to hear that the CBC is banned from using CC materials that the artists want to make freely available. The CBC obviously isn't required to use Creative Commons licensed music, but this highlights an instance where at least one of it’s programs wants to use it and groups that purport to support artists' right to choose the rights associated with their work is trying to stop them from doing so.

Comments from the Spark blog:

@mattperreault (listener, via twitter): I was looking for the links to the "Creative Commons" music used in this episode. I can't find the link? Perhaps I'm looking in the wrong place?

Dan Misener (Spark producer): Hi, Matt. You're not looking in the wrong place. There's simply no Creative Commons music used in this episode. By management decree, CBC podcasts are no longer permitted to use CC music. Instead, we're using the APM Music library (, which is copyright cleared and fully licensed by the CBC.

Lily (CBC Radio Podcasting): It turned out that our use of Creative Commons licensed music was going against some of the details in collective agreements we hold with certain talent agencies. As such, we had to discontinue our use of it.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Social Justice in the Stacks: Progressive Activism in the Information Professions

The new Edmonton chapter of the Progressive Librarians Guild (PLG) is presenting a panel discussion at SLIS about the intersections between social justice and the information and library professions. Admission is free and the event will be on Thursday, November 4th at 7pm in Henderson Hall on the U of Alberta campus.

Social equality issues such as access to information, documentation of society, and free distribution of knowledge are core principles of modern libraries and archives.  However, these principles are often de-accentuated in the day-to-day management of libraries and archives and information professionals can find themselves detached from a social justice perspective.
Topics discussed will include academic freedom, professionals as workers, access to archival holdings, representation of marginalized voices, public libraries as sites of contention, and the purpose of the PLG.  Speakers include the following (please note that speakers are not appearing on behalf of their respective institutions):
  • Toni Samek – Professor, School of Library and Information Studies, University of Alberta
  • Amanda Bird – Librarian, Edmonton Public Library
  • Braden Cannon – Archivist, Provincial Archives of Alberta/University of Calgary
  • Raymond Frogner – Archivist, University of Alberta
  • Rene Georgopalis – Archivist, Musée Héritage Museum and Archives (St. Albert)
For more information about PLG and this panel discussion you can visit their main website:

Monday, October 04, 2010

GELA Beers Beyond Bars Pub Night this Friday!

The Greater Edmonton Library Association is hosting their 2010 Pub Night this Friday, Oct 8th from 6pm-10pm at Ceilis' Irish Pub in Edmonton (10338 109th St) 
This event raises money to support GELA's Prison Library and Reintegration Committee projects and is a great way to meet some very cool library folk in Edmonton. Tickets are $10 (which includes a free drink before 10pm and snacks)

There will be a raffle draw at 9pm.

Although there will be a limited number of tickets available at the door, it would be best if you could email Tara ( to reserve your spot.

 For more information about the GELA Prison Library Project, GELA and LISAA check out the links below:



Prison Library and Reintegration Committee

Google Tracking International Government Censorship

Last week BBC reported on a new Google resource that maps online censorship, displaying the frequency different national governments requested information about web users and censor online services.

Information on China (as Slashdot points out) is conspicuously absent. This is an interesting development as Google has increasingly come under criticism for handing over information about users to governments and cooperating with China's desire to heavily censor what online content is available to it's citizens.

What do you think about Google's online practices and the way they deal with censor-heavy nations like China? As online information and what users do on social networking sites and read online becomes increasingly available for scrutiny what responsibilities do companies like Google, governments and international organization have to internet users?

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Where, Why and How the Economist is Censored

The Economist recently published an article about the countries that have banned the popular magazine and for what reasons since 2009. The reasons range from geo-political arguments to nudity (see the cover depicting Adam and Eve below) to religious conflicts. 

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Ellen Hopkins' Anti-Censorship Manifesto

Thanks to Jen for sending this great article from the Huffington Post about one author's experience dealing with censorship.

Ellen Hopkins, author of Crank and Glass, who explores controversial topics in her writing such as addiction, prostitution, suicide and violence has encountered her share of censors who have lobbied to ban her books and cancel speaking engagements. In this article she eloquently describe her work and events she was invited to speak at and then subsequently blocked by various authority figures. 

Interestingly, in Hopkins' experience librarians have both rallied to her defense, pushing to have her speak to their students and communities, as well as acting to prevent her from speaking at their schools. At a recent teen lit event Hopkins was removed from the speakers panel due to complaints about her subject matter. Subsequently the event was cancelled when the other YA authors scheduled refused to support an event that would censor a member of their community. 

At the end of this article Hopkins includes the fantastic Manifesto she wrote for Banned Books Week 2009 I want to reproduce here in it's entirety - click here for a pdf version

To you zealots and bigots and false
patriots who live in fear of discourse.
You screamers and banners and burners
who would force books
off shelves in your brand name
of greater good.
You say you're afraid for children,
innocents ripe for corruption

by perversion or sorcery on the page.
But sticks and stones do break
bones, and ignorance is no armor.
You do not speak for me,
and will not deny my kids magic
in favor of miracles.
You say you're afraid for America,
the red, white, and blue corroded
by terrorists, socialists, the sexually
confused. But we are a vast quilt
of patchwork cultures and multi-gendered
identities. You cannot speak for those
whose ancestors braved
different seas.
You say you're afraid for God,
the living word eroded by Muhammed
and Darwin and Magdalene.
But the omnipotent sculptor of heaven
and earth designed intelligence.
Surely you dare not speak
for the father, who opens
his arms to all.
A word to the unwise.
Torch every book.
Char every page.
Burn every word to ash.
Ideas are incombustible.
And therein lies your real fear.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Operation Dark Heart - more info

The censorship of the original version of Operation Dark Heart has been making the rounds through national and international news sources. It is nice to see this issue getting so much attention and it is encouraging to know that people have not become complicit in literary censorship, even when it involves nationalistic and military events.
To see some additional coverage of this story check out this video:

Multisource political news, world news, and entertainment news analysis by

you can also get more information from the official book site:
Operation Dark Heart

Time Magazine also has a brief article about the controversy and some interesting links to more information about book banning and Banned Books Week in the US

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Howl at the EFF

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

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

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

Hope to see lots of FLIF-ers there!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

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

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

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

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

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


from the Washington Post (Sept 10, 2010)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 24, 2010

This guy thinks SPEAK is pornography

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

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

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

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Alaskan Libraries & Bookstore Sue Over Stifling New Law

From the Alaska Dispatch - Sept 15, 2010

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

From the Alaska Dispatch article:

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 18, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

1st FLIF meeting of the year!

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

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

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

Monday, September 13, 2010

Harper Government Censoring Canadian Scientists

Story via Slashdot, via the Vancouver Sun

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

GELA Prison Project - Remand Centre Wishlist

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

The latest wishlist includes:

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

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

10 Rules for Radicals

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

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

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

FLIF is on Twitter!

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

Monday, September 06, 2010

Welcome Back Proto-Librarians!

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

New York Public Library archives

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your FLIF co-chairs, 
Shannon & Jorden

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Oil Spill (PR) Damage Control

Via Slashdot, June 8th 2010:

In an attempt to limit the damage to their reputation and ostensibly to provide relevant and authoritative information on the continuing environmental crisis in the Gulf of Mexico, BP has purchased search terms such as "oil spill" on large search engines like Google and Yahoo. This means that while other sites addressing this issue turn up in the search results, BP advertisements appear at the top of the page, directing searchers to their corporate website for information.

BP is claiming that this strategy is not morally compromising as they are using one of the most effective methods of disseminating information to help provide those affected by the spill with "accurate information, right forms and key people for contact."

The real question is how comfortable we should be with allowing large corporations harbouring their own PR agendas to be able to purchase preferential search result positions on Internet search engines. While commercial search engines are suppored by revenue generated by paid advertisements, more and more people use the Internet and mainstream search engines as their main or only source of information. The order search results are listed in has a large impact on their perceived authority and relevance and while we should all strive to be critical and conscientious media consumers, this latest attempt to control of the flow of bad press seems disingenuous.

If only BP would spend as much time working on stopping the flow of oil into the Gulf, perhaps these media control tactics would be unnecessary.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Surprise! Vancouver Does NOT Like Homeless People

Not to take away from some of the progressive initiatives Vancouver has developed for its homeless population BUT in today's Vancouver Sun:

"An ambassador with the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association referred to the homeless and drug-addicted as "scum of the earth," an artist who posed as an ambassador claims.

Jamie Hilder, who was training with the ambassador, said other ambassadors would routinely pressure the homeless to move along the city streets.

Hilder was the first witness in an expected 15-day B.C. Human Rights hearing, brought by Pivot Legal Society, United Native Nations and the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users against the association and the City of Vancouver for discriminating against drug addicts, the homeless and aboriginal people."

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Quiet in the Library

In an impressive attempt to placate the fearmongering and elitism that has surrounded the recent spate of negative coverage about the downtown Milner library, today's Edmonton Journal published a lengthy article on what some may refer to as "problem patrons" - people who have nowhere to go in a culture of increasingly eroded public spaces. It would have been nice to see a mention of the successful and innovative Canadian initiative, The Working Together Project, but it's still refreshing to see an attempt at understanding the root causes of the issues many inner city libraries face when serving patrons from a wide spectrum of backgrounds. Punitive policies against odors and bedrolls and large bags, for instance, work against the broader library ethos of inclusion and equity of access, and promote public libraries as exclusive enclaves of an elite middle class. The Working Together Project eloquently expresses the exclusionary effects of such policies:

"The reality is that to the majority of socially-excluded people, we are a club and they do not feel welcome. Our atmosphere is oppressive, our rules and codes are alienating, and, often, we ourselves are unapproachable and/or intimidating. We require identification and proof of address for membership; we charge fines for overdue materials; we have policies about smelly patrons and behaviour that we as staff find challenging to manage; we implement policies and architecture to “protect” staff from patrons; and we use complex jargon to discuss our services. Many socially-excluded people do not feel welcome and the reality is that they are not welcome. Most of our planning processes and many of our policies and practices make this very clear to them."

Some libraries - San Francisco Public Library for example - are much more progressive and innovative in their approach, hiring a social worker who can refer patrons to shelters and agencies. While most libraries don't have the budgetary luxury to hire social workers, staff training and referrals to social service agencies can go a long way in helping those patrons who have nowhere else to go find social services that can assist them. Promoting a welcoming atmosphere is also essential, as EPL CEO Linda Cook remarked: "We would never refuse entry to someone based on how they look or the fact they don't have a home."

We do have to take issue with the tone of the Journal article at times and the somewhat hyperbolic journalistic license employed - "Nearby, a man dropped a small plastic baggie into another man's hand. In the bathroom, the needle box continued to fill" and referring to these folks as "bad apples in public spaces." If anything, these issues have been useful in illuminating how many Edmontonians have fallen through the cracks caused by the erosion of social services. To complain that these people are "taking over our library" is to overlook the fact that it's EVERYONE'S library. In the unfortunate onslaught of negative coverage concerning our downtown library, there is the bittersweet benefit that perhaps our city officials might take a closer look at the perilous effects of budget cuts in areas that affect people's lives in such overwhelming ways, and to hopefully arrive at some sort of plan to fill these gaps.

Kudos to the Journal for an insightful article that will surely open some eyes.

Image courtesy of, licensed by Creative Commons.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

EIFW Booksale Shout Out!

Some very welcome publicity for the GELA Prison Project in yesterday's Edmonton Sun:

"A group of city librarians will spend their Mother’s Day selling stacks of books to make sure imprisoned moms are just a “play” button away for dozens of kids.

The sale — continuing on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 10706 84 Ave. — is the first time the Greater Edmonton Library Association has held a public fundraiser to support their varied projects in the Edmonton federal women’s prison.

Since 2007, the group has visited the prison regularly, offering book clubs, keeping the prison library properly stocked and running the ongoing Storybook Project.

The project offers inmates a chance to read a story to their children — some of whom they may not have seen since giving birth — while a volunteer records it.

The CD with the reading and a copy of the accompanying book is then mailed to the children."

Read more here.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Gossip Girl Books Illicit?

An act of censorship or exposing the neglect of libraries to protect children from age-inappropriate content? You know what WE think - what do you think? Read the full article here.

"Longwood parent Tina Harden was so disturbed by references to sex and drugs and foul language in the world of fictional teenager Jenny Humphrey that she is ignoring overdue notices and phone calls from her neighborhood library and its bill collector.

Harden refuses to return several books connected to the Gossip Girl series that detail Humphrey's life, even though she's had them since 2008."

"Harden said she doesn't want them banned, but she does want the library to put a warning label on the four titles...",0,7112288.story

Monday, May 03, 2010

Freedom to Read Memberships

What a deal!

Free memberships with the Freedom to Read Foundation for new graduates of ALA-accredited MLS and MLIS programs!

Fill out the PDF form and email or mail to:
Freedom to Read Foundation
50 East Huron Street
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 280-4227 (fax)

A word document is available here.

Book Sale Fundraiser - May 8 and 9

Volunteer Call for Homeless Connect

It's been a while, but we're back to ask for your help!

On Sunday, May 9, 2010, Future Librarians for Intellectual Freedom (FLIF), the GELA Community Bookshelf Project, and the Edmonton Public Library will be distributing books to Edmonton's homeless community at Homeless Connect, held from 10:00 am until 3:00 p.m. at the Shaw Conference Centre. Last October's event was a great success - we gave heaps of books away, met lots of great people, and had a lot of fun. Plus, free snacks and drinks and a t-shirt for all volunteers!

There are two shifts available for 2-3 volunteers - the 9:30 am to 12:30 pm shift and the 12:30 until 3:30 shift. The duties are very basic - refill the boxes of books on the table, welcome visitors to the table, and help people find books they would like to read. Easy, rewarding, AND fun!

Contact us at flifblog @ to volunteer or for more information.

Visit the links below to find out more about this amazing event:


Thursday, April 01, 2010

Open Letter to Harper

The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) and First Nations University of Canada faculty, student and Aboriginal leaders want the federal government to reverse its decision to end funding at the end of March for the only Aboriginal university in Canada. It's not too late - sign this open letter to Prime Minister Harper to show your support for a sustainable future for FNUC.

From CBC:

"Both the federal and provincial governments suspended FNUC's funding earlier this year.In recent years, there have been numerous dismissals and departures of top administrators, allegations of misuse of funds, repeated deficits and declining enrolment. Ottawa and the province [Sask.] both said they cut funding because FNUC wasn't fixing the problems fast enough."

Monday, March 15, 2010

Quick link of the day: Textbooks in Texas

via the New York Times:

"Even as a panel of educators laid out a vision Wednesday for national standards for public schools, the Texas school board was going in a different direction, holding hearings on changes to its social studies curriculum that would portray conservatives in a more positive light, emphasize the role of Christianity in American history and include Republican political philosophies in textbooks."

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Chilean Libraries Update

On February 27th, one of the most powerful earthquakes in history devastated a large part of Chile. The earthquake and 150 aftershocks affected six regions in the country, killing almost 300 individuals and impacting over 2 million people.

In the aftermath, many libraries have been damaged or destroyed. Early reports indicate that nearly 50% of Chile's libraries have been damaged, and six completely destroyed.

However, the news is not all bad. 133 public libraries have been able to restore their services. At the same time, of the 154 remaining libraries in the affected areas, no communication has been established with some, others remain closed or used as temporary headquarters for Municipal services, and many others have suffered structural damage.

In the wake of the disaster, Internet access is vital to Chileans seeking contact with friends and family. The BiblioRedes Program is Chile's largest network of free access to Internet, where the public library in one of every three communes is the only free access point for Internet. According to Gloria Perez Salmaron, Chair of Catalan Library Association, who has had direct communication with library staff in Chile, the employees of the public library maintain their conviction to help others and insist that these gathering spaces for the community should be included in the priority for reconstruction, such as hospitals, housing and roads. Reestablishing the BiblioRedes Program is a crucial part of the reconstruction process.

The American Library Association's Chile Library Relief group offers ways for you to donate to library relief efforts in Chile. Click here for more information.

image of the Biblioteca Pelluhue, San Javier, Chile from ALA Chile Library Relief Group.

Broward County Libs Offering Free Communication to Haiti

Broward County Libraries in Florida are offering free telephone and Internet access to Haiti over the next 30 days, as well as access to agencies assisting in relief efforts.

Library Journal reports: "Additional computers and data and phone lines have been installed at North Lauderdale Saraniero Library, Pompano Beach Branch, and Tamarac Branch, where study rooms have been converted into information access centers. During this 30-day period, customers can place free, ten-minute phone calls to Haiti at the three libraries. Toll-free 800-number service is also provided at no charge, as are Internet connections. AT&T is reporting that, despite the devastation to Haiti’s infrastructure, 30 percent to 40 percent of phone calls are getting through."

Visit the Broward County Haiti Relief Task Force on Facebook to read more about relief efforts in Florida.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Petition Jason Kenney for Equal Rights

Jason Kenney, the Canadian Minister for Citizenship and Immigration, blocked references to LGBTTI rights in a new study guide for immigrants released last November. Kenney is known for opposing same-sex marriage when it is debated in Parliament.

Recently, news of Kenney's action has become public. Documents reveal that Kenney omitted references to Canada’s decriminalization of homosexual sex and recognition of same-sex marriage rights, despite advice from his senior department officials. Earlier drafts of the guide contained these references. Visit the Canadian Union of Public Employee's website to sign an online petition against these actions.

Let's all tell Jason Kenney that Canadians strongly believe in the importance of the fundamental freedoms and rights outlined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The message to Kenney is as follows:

"I am writing to condemn your decision to remove all references to lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans rights from Canada’s new guide for immigrants released last November.

The booklet provides immigrants applying for Canadian citizenship with information about Canada and why our country is a great place to live and work for everyone, especially members of the LGBTTI community.

As a representative of our federal government, you have a responsibility to uphold the rights of all Canadians as guaranteed under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter specifically mentions freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation.

I demand that all references to these rights be put back into the guide and further that your department proudly promote the importance of these rights to citizenship applicants."


Happy International Women's Day!

Today, March 8, 2010, is International Women's Day. The theme this year is "Equal rights, equal opportunities: Progress for all," and events are happening throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements: "A global web of rich and diverse local activity connects women from all around the world ranging from political rallies, business conferences, government activities and networking events through to local women's craft markets, theatric performances, fashion parades and more" (from site). Unfortunately, very little appears to be happening in Edmonton to celebrate, but that won't stop us from celebrating in smaller ways, perhaps by reading some Emma Goldman, Valerie Solanas, and Simone de Beauvoir!

Check out the time line over at Feminists For Choice.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

"Library of Humans"

Though many detractors have found the idea of lending out human beings as "living library" items essentialist and reductive, the concept is catching on in many libraries across Canada. Just recently, due to trademark issues, the Living Library project changed its name to The Human Library. On March 5th, Macleans covered Guelph University's Human Library project:

"When Chris Langley volunteered to help out with a project at his university library last year, he didn’t imagine he’d wind up becoming a book. The 25-year-old master’s student was intrigued by the notion of a human library, a space in which prospective readers scheduled half-hour time slots with real people and engaged in direct conversations about prejudice."

Read it here.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Freedom to Read Week Follow-up

Another Amazing Freedom to Read Week!
A Banned Books Cafe, a Freedom Ball, the release of banned books all over the city, and students promoting intellectual freedom to the University Campus - it's been a busy and fun Freedom To Read Week! Highlights included Toni Samek's stirring talk at the Banned Books Cafe at the downtown public library and a brave and funny kid taking the podium to openly voice his dislike of Charlotte's Web. A performance by Latino social justice rappers, the People's Poets, at the Freedom Ball was especially poignant in light of the unfortunate events befalling Chile. Created by Edmontonians, art, postcards, and posters about intellectual freedom were displayed in the beautiful new Art Gallery of Alberta.

On campus, the Canadian Library Association Student Chapter and the Future Librarians for Intellectual Freedom promoted Freedom to Read Week to the wider campus community. A display of banned and challenged books drew the attention of many curious passers-by, and we shared many amazing dialogues from a variety of perspectives on intellectual freedom issues. There were even some impromptu live readings from banned books! (thanks M!) We raised a record setting $200.00 in donations that will go toward the Greater Edmonton Library Association's Prison Project Subcommittee's innovative initiatives at the Edmonton Institution for Women. It's been a busy and inspiring week, and big thanks to everyone who helped out at the table or stopped by to chat with us in HUB Mall.


photo credit: T. Forman & M. Cooper

Friday, March 05, 2010

Death of the Book?

We don't think so! Read this surprising article in the Times on how books outnumber games on iPhones.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

FLIF's Quick Links

Over at FLIF headquarters (my living room), we decided to try out something new that we liked on other blogs - quick links! Addicted to the Internet as we are, we thought it would be a good idea to share the fruit of our procrastination with all of you out there. It will be semi-regular, and just a list of interesting library and intellectual freedom-related resources from all over the web. SO away we go!

Saturday Links

  • At Social Justice Librarian, Ken Williment from the Working Together Project will be guest-blogging over the next few months. His first post discusses the impact of community led work on the professional identity of librarians, and he plans to discuss the possible systemic barriers that currently exist within library culture and how a community led approach may reduce them.

  • The podcast of Rory Litwin's keynote speech on Disintermediation 2.0 can be found here. Rory spoke here at the University of Alberta's Forum for Information Professionals in early February.

  • A French organisation, Bibliothèques Sans Frontières (BSF), has gone to Haiti to evaluate library damage in and around Port-au-Prince. A 42 page report, “Rapport de la mission de sauvegarde des archives et des collections patrimoniales haïtiennes et d’évaluation des besoins en termes de reconstruction” (Report on the mission to rescue the archives and Haitian heritage collections and to evaluate the reconstruction needs), reveals their findings. Find out more at Librarian Activist.

  • Visit the American Library Association's "Haiti Library Relief" page. The site provides information on ways to help libraries and archives recover, including donations and volunteering, as well as reports on damage to cultural institutions in Haiti, and more.

Have a great weekend and don't forget that the Edmonton Public Library's Freedom Ball is at 7:00 p.m. tonight at the new Art Gallery of Alberta.


Columbia's Biblioburro

CNN recently ran this story about Columbian primary school teacher Luis Soriano, who has spent close to 4,000 hours riding his biblioburro (lit. "book-donkey") to remote villages to reach the thousands of Columbian children who are unable to attend school.

Make sure to visit CNN to watch the short video about Soriano.

From the story:

"More than 4,000 youngsters have benefited from Soriano's program since it began in 1990. Soriano says countless others have been helped, too; parents and other adult learners often participate in the lessons.

Soriano has spent nearly 4,000 hours riding his donkeys, and he's not traveled unscathed. In July 2008, he fractured his leg when he fell from one of the donkeys; in 2006, he was pounced on by bandits at a river crossing and tied to a tree when they found out he had no money. Despite these injuries, which left him with a limp, Soriano has no intention of slowing down.

In addition to the biblioburro program, he and his wife built the largest free library in Magdalena next to their home. The library has 4,200 books, most of which are donated -- some from as far away as New York City. They also run a small community restaurant."

With Freedom to Read Week winding down, a story like this can remind us all of how fortunate we are in Canada to have the unfettered access we do to libraries and education, and can prompt us to find anything within our power to improve access to information for people who do not enjoy the same levels of freedom and access we do. As an example, check out Guatemala's PROBIGUA project, which operates 2 mobile libraries and spearheads literacy projects. You can even pay a nominal fee to stay with a local family and attend Spanish language classes, with all proceeds going to the mobile libraries. As a bonus, the classes will prepare you to ride along in the mobile library!

If you're interested in seeing more, you can check out Remote Access: Distant Libraries of the World from your local library or you can watch segments of it here.

image courtesy of

Friday, February 26, 2010

This Book is Overdue

Yet another new book to add to the pile! Marilyn Johnson's This Book is Overdue! argues for the vital importance of libraries in the digital age and their role in preserving freedom of expression.

The following is courtesy of the publisher:

"In This Book is Overdue!, acclaimed author Marilyn Johnson celebrates libraries and librarians, and, as she did in her popular first book, The Dead Beat, discovers offbeat and eloquent characters in the quietest corners. In defiance of doomsayers, Johnson finds librarians more vital and necessary than ever, as they fuse the tools of the digital age with love for the written word and the enduring values of truth, service to all, and free speech. This Book Is Overdue! is a romp through the ranks of information professionals who organize our messy world and offer old-fashioned human help through the maze.'