Thursday, December 01, 2011

Welcome to December & the Banned Books Advent Calendar!

The year has flown by and here we are on the first of December. As many of us dive head first into exams and final projects why don't you take a moment to start the count-down to Christmas with the first Banned Books Video Advent Calendar created by the Entresse Library in Espoo and FAIFE (Committee on Freedom of Access to Information and Freedom of Expression).

Day 1, Banned Books Calendar from Entressen kirjasto on Vimeo.

From the IFLA blog
The project's participants include leading figures in the library world, who introduce their favourite banned books: IFLA President Ingrid Parent presents Timothy Findlay's The Wars; Finnish IFLA President-Elect Sinikka Sipilä presents Mika Waltari's The Egyptian; Kai Ekholm introduces Allen Ginsberg's Howl and Executive Director Jill Cousins of the Europeana Foundation expounds on James Joyce's Ulysses. Other books include Art Spiegelman's Maus, Hitler's Mein Kampf, Boccaccio's Decameron and Walt Disney's Donald Duck.
"We wanted to show that books have been censored for centuries for daring to defy the Catholic Church with its Index Librorum Prohibitorum, the Puritans, judicial systems and politicians," Ekholm notes. The purpose of the project is to promote public debate. Viewers can have their say on whether the books were banned for a sensible reason. "Books are still being burned, but the focus now is on online censorship. Sad examples include Turkey and Hungary in Europe and, on the world stage, China, where 450 million online citizens live in a closed intranet without access to Facebook or various Google searches. Perhaps next year's calendar will focus on banned web pages."

Following the tradition of the Advent calendar, each day between December 1st and December 24th a new window will open and a new book will be presented on several sites throughout the world.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

GELA-FLIF-APIRG Edmonton Women's Prison Tour Debriefing

Last week members of FLIF, GELA, and APIRG went on two tours of the Edmonton Women's Prison led by corrections staff members. 

GELA has worked very hard to implement several projects in the prison community including bringing in books from the Edmonton Public Library based on the requests of the inmates because they do not have access to library cards or the EPL library catalogue. Requests are varied and include materials in different languages such as Arabic, Chinese, etc.

GELA has a great relationship with the inmate librarian Cathy to develop and execute projects such as the children's storybook project, supporting and growing the prison's library, book clubs, EPL loans, fundraising, and information literacy initiatives. GELA is interested in starting a technology literacy initiative that is in the very early stages and welcome anyone interested in participating in this discussion. 

Volunteer Opportunities: 
GELA is always looking for volunteers for the storybook project. This involves completeing two training sessions and takes place one Saturday per month. You don't have to go every month, but having a larger pool of available volunteer is helpful. You would go into the prison and use a voice recorder to record an inmate reading a children's book and then burn the recording onto a CD and then the book and recording is sent to the inmate's child. Don't worry if you don't have a voice recorder or laptop or experience with audio editing - we are happy to support you in getting access to the skills and technology you need to participate in this project. 

There is a mentorship program that matches inmates with mentors that is looking for people to participate in this capacity. This program includes meeting with inmates in the prison as well as escorting partners to cultural and social events.  They are always looking for people with different perspectives and especially younger people for this project.

GELA is organizing an art show at the Latitude 53 community gallery in the spring of 2012 of works made by the inmates. Help organizing this project would be appreciated and is something that could be done outside of the prison facility.
The library is always accepting donations of books. Contact GELA for a list of specific requests for the library.

The technological literacy group led by GELA member Masha would be a great opportunity to share your expertise and get involved in this capactiy.
For library school students GELA has also supervised a practicum at the prison library - this would be a great opportunity for an unusual practicum and a very rare and valuable experience. If you are interested in community librarianship or working with marginalized communities this could be a great fit.

There are lots of opportunities for getting new projects started, lots of things are possible if you have a passion and want to start a project. Past examples have been a zine that was produced based on the writing of the prison inmates.

FLIF would like to thank the volunteers at GELA (Sarah, Liz, Allison, Danielle & Anna) for organizing this tour and participating in this discussion, the prison facility staff, and APIRG for organizing the tour members and transportation to and from the facility. There was a lot of interest in these tours this time around and we could not accomodate everyone. If you are interested in these programs or possibly going on a tour in the new year please let us know and if there is interest we can work to organize another tour in early 2012. 

If you have any questions about these programs please check out the GELA blog -
or email us at flifblog (at) and we can connect you to the GELA Google Group

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Meeting Minutes - Nov 15, 2011

Thanks to everyone how came out to the meeting yesterday. We are organizing a few groups to spearhead some of our projects for the upcoming year. If you are interested in getting involved in any of the following projects please comment on this post or send an email to flifblog (at) and let us know in what capacity you are intersted in getting involved:

1. Freedom to Read Week - we are open to suggestion about what we can do to promote intellectual freedom and literacy on campus during FTRW (Feb 26 - Mar 3, 2012). 

2. Jasper Place Highschool alternative library/resource centre collection development project
3. Community Bookshelf - sorting, packing and delivering book donations for our community partners

4. Working on our funding proposal for APIRG and other funding resources for Jasper Place and Community Bookshelf/Homeless Connect projects

We are also open to suggestions about project you might want to pursue or get involved in that fall under our mandate. 

Get in touch, we are here to help with all the resources we have available to us.

IFLA launches website on Copyright Limitations and Exceptions

*reblogged from the IFLA website (Nov 09/11), thanks to Toni Samek for bringing this to our attention 

IFLA has created a new set of webpages, dedicated to one of the most important policy issues which IFLA is currently dealing with - the issue of copyright limitations and exceptions for libraries.

Copyright exceptions enable libraries to preserve and make available works. In many countries they have been established in the print era and not been updated to meet the needs of the digital age. An updated system is needed to enable libraries to provide users with both historical and new services in pace with ongoing technological changes.

IFLA is working with Member States of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to gain support for a binding international instrument on copyright limitations and exceptions to enable libraries to preserve their collections, support education and research, and lend materials. To demonstrate what is needed, IFLA has produced a Treaty proposal (called 'TLIB') to guide WIPO's Member States in updating limitations and exceptions for libraries worldwide.

Find out more about limitations and exceptions for libraries at and learn what you can do to get involved supporting an international binding instrument that meets the needs of libraries in the 21st century.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Film Screening and Workshop- “Framing the Intervention: How Canada Staged Its Takeover of the Lubicon Lake Nation”

This Tuesday, November 1st APIRG and the Friends of the Lubicon Alberta are presenting a film screening and workshop about the struggles that the Lubicon Cree people face here in Alberta. We hope you can make it for this event.

Film Screening and Workshop- “Framing the Intervention: How Canada Staged Its Takeover of the Lubicon Lake Nation” 

When: Tuesday, November 1st, 6pm-9pm
Where: Education South room 129, University of Alberta
"Framing the Intervention: How Canada Staged its Takeover of the Lubicon Lake Nation"
Imagine living in a society where your health- the one thing you value the most- is not protected by decision makers. Imagine your right to proper health being taken away as you live in less than desirable conditions. No. you do not have to live in a third world country to experience these conditions. In fact, this is occurring right in our own backyards, and we are doing nothing to stop it.
This is a film not only about the latest oil spill disaster in Little Buffalo, but a film about the catastrophe the Lubicon continue to endure while INAC refuses to allow duly-elected Lubicon leadership to take office.
On April 29, a pipeline leaked 4.5 million litres of crude oil into the wetlands of traditional Lubicon Cree territory. The pressing question is not so much how the spill occurred, but how the Lubiconcommunity had NO Emergency Response Plan. Living amidst 2300 km of pipeline and over 2000 oil wells, an emergency response plan is vital to everyday safety.
So how could the Lubicon have been without a plan?
To understand the treatment of the Lubicon community, this film examines the patterns of exclusion adopted by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) years before the spill. This film will allow you to gain insight into the struggles of the Lubicon Cree.
This is their story.
Presented by: 

Friends of the Lubicon Alberta

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Charles Bukowski on Censorship

In 1985, a library in Holland banned one of Charles Bukowski's books: Tales of Ordinary Madness. The library officials said the work was "very sadistic, occasionally fascist and discriminatory against certain groups (including homosexuals)."
Bukowski responded with this brilliant letter, from Letters of Note on October 18th
Check out the link to see a photo of the letter that is currently displayed in the Open Dicht Bus, a mobile book store usually based in Eindhoven.


Dear Hans van den Broek:

Thank you for your letter telling me of the removal of one of my books from the Nijmegen library. And that it is accused of discrimination against black people, homosexuals and women. And that it is sadism because of the sadism.

The thing that I fear discriminating against is humor and truth.

If I write badly about blacks, homosexuals and women it is because of these who I met were that. There are many "bads"--bad dogs, bad censorship; there are even "bad" white males. Only when you write about "bad" white males they don't complain about it. And need I say that there are "good" blacks, "good" homosexuals and "good" women?

In my work, as a writer, I only photograph, in words, what I see. If I write of "sadism" it is because it exists, I didn't invent it, and if some terrible act occurs in my work it is because such things happen in our lives. I am not on the side of evil, if such a thing as evil abounds. In my writing I do not always agree with what occurs, nor do I linger in the mud for the sheer sake of it. Also, it is curious that the people who rail against my work seem to overlook the sections of it which entail joy and love and hope, and there are such sections. My days, my years, my life has seen up and downs, lights and darknesses. If I wrote only and continually of the "light" and never mentioned the other, then as an artist I would be a liar.

Censorship is the tool of those who have the need to hide actualities from themselves and from others. Their fear is only their inability to face what is real, and I can't vent any anger against them. I only feel this appalling sadness. Somewhere, in their upbringing, they were shielded against the total facts of our existence. They were only taught to look one way when many ways exist.

I am not dismayed that one of my books has been hunted down and dislodged from the shelves of a local library. In a sense, I am honored that I have written something that has awakened these from their non-ponderous depths. But I am hurt, yes, when somebody else's book is censored, for that book, usually is a great book and there are few of those, and throughout the ages that type of book has often generated into a classic, and what was once thought shocking and immoral is now required reading at many of our universities.

I am not saying that my book is one of those, but I am saying that in our time, at this moment when any moment may be the last for many of us, it's damned galling and impossibly sad that we still have among us the small, bitter people, the witch-hunters and the declaimers against reality. Yet, these too belong with us, they are part of the whole, and if I haven't written about them, I should, maybe have here, and that's enough.

may we all get better together,

Charles Bukowski

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Edmonton Supports Slave Lake Public Library

Edmonton area library associations GELA, ELLA, NAHLA, LISSA, & AALT are hosting a fundraising event on Thursday, November 3rd at Paul Byrne Hall, in the Robbins Health Learning Centre on the MacEwan University City Centre Campus (10910-104 Avenue) to support the Rotary Club of Slave Lake Public Library, which was destroyed by the fires that devastated the entire community of Slave Lake earlier this year. Their library had just moved to this new facility in 2010 and it is a huge loss for this community as well as the wider library community in Alberta.

Marilyn Cavanaugh, chair of the Slave Lake Regional Library Board Chair, will be speaking about the experiences of the library as it recovers from the fires that destroyed much of the town of Slave Lake.
This ticketed event begins with a reception at 5:00 pm, followed by the guest speaker at 6:00 pm. Tickets are $15 ($12 for students), and are available through the GELA website or at the door.

A portion of each ticket will go towards the reconstruction efforts of the library. Attendees will also have the opportunity to make a personal donation at the event.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Kurt Vonnegut


"So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House or the Supreme Court or the Senate or the House of Representatives or the media. The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries."

Kurt Vonnegut

image by netmonkey via Flickr

Sunday, October 23, 2011

More Wanted Books

We distributed over 1000 books this past week at Homeless Connect 7, but there are always titles and authors that are requested that we don't have or run out of quickly. We always keep a list of these requests and try to meet the need the next time around. If you happen to have any of these books available to donate or are able to round up some before next May please let FLIF know and we will do our best to arrange a pick up. Many of these will likely end up on our next 'Most Wanted Books Challenge' list. 
This year we had a tremendous number of requests for non-fiction titles and very few resources in this area. Check out the types/genres lists and see if you have any current books that fit these descriptions.

If you would like to make a book donation please contact FLIF through email at flifblog(at)

Please note that we do not have the ability to store large amounts of books and are only able to accept donations of up-to-date non-fiction and fiction titles in good condition. Thanks!

  • Dean Koontz
  • David Gemmell
  • Nicholas Sparks
  • Thrasher (author who was homeless, writes about life on the street)
  • Stephen King
  • Arthur C. Clark (Rama series specifically)
  • Catherine Cookson
  • Jackie Collins
  • Danielle Steele
  • Charles Dickens
  • John Steinbeck
  • John Grisham

  • Twilight Series
  • Three Musketeers

  • Westerns **we are in DESPERATE need of paperback westerns!**
  • comic books & graphic novels
  • books for babies/board books
  • crossword puzzle books
  • Chicken Soup series
  • Christian literature
  • Self-help books
  • Natural medicine
  • health books
  • Aboriginal titles & authors
  • political books: Anti-war and Anti-capitalism
  • Dictionaries & Atlases
  • Math & Physics textbooks
  • quantum physics
  • astronomy
  • French language books
  • Spanish language books 
  • true crime  
  • ghost stories
  •  magazines

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Open Access Week: Oct 24th - 28th

Athabasca University is hosting Open Access week starting October 24, 2011. There will be a series of five noon-hour webcasts exploring major issues and opportunities presented by Open Educational Resources (OER). Each session will feature an internationally known promoter and developer of open educational resources, research, or ideas. Everyone is welcome. This is a great opportunity to grab your lunch and a pair of headphones and take in some great lectures from wherever you are duing the week - talk about open access! The sessions are listed below:

Monday, October 24th- Fun and Fear in Open Spaces
Presenters: Dr. Terry Anderson, Dr. Jon Dron
Tuesday, October 25th- Post Secondary Leadership in the OER Movement
Presenter: Dr. Frits Pannekoek

Wednesday, October 26th - Making Sense of Complexity in Open Information Environments
Presenter: George Siemens
Thursday, October 27th – Panel on Moving to Open Educational Resources at Athabasca University
Presenters: Dr. Lisa Carter, Dr. Cindy Ives, Tony Tin, Colin Elliott
Friday, October 28th – OER’s and Sustainable Innovation: Low Cost, Low Risk but High Impact
Presenters: Dr. Rory McGreal, Dr. Wayne Mackintosh

Each session is being presented as a Webcast from noon to 1 p.m. MST. For more information or to join the sessions please go to:

Friday, October 21, 2011

Libraries Got Screwed by Amazon and Overdrive

This blog post comes courtesy of the very talented and hardworking SLIS tech Nicole - thanks so much for sending this around and allowing FLIF to repost your message.  This is a really important issue in public libraries right now as Kindles and e-readers become more popular. It is a lot easier for these kinds of decisions to get made at the top and passed on down to users without a venue for discussion or effective complaint when we don't know anything about it. As proto-librarians (and often current library workers) it is our responsibility to educate ourselves and follow how digital books are being produced and restricted. This is going to be a very important medium for readers and we have an opportunity to be a part of the discussion as these important decisions get made. 

Ok FLIF-ers, it's time to get educated and get loud, this issue matters. Check out the excellent video below:
from Nicole: 

Intellectual freedom and privacy are fundamental values in our profession and according to Sarah Houghton (Librarian in Black) the new Amazon/Overdrive deal with libraries pushes the boundaries of these values.
I encourage you all to watch the video at the link below/attached and then forward on. I have also included links to less biased commentary - the announcement from Overdrive and a Library Journal article
Fair warning...there is some swearing. Librarian in Black is really pissed!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Homeless Connect 7 - Thank you volunteers!!

A tremendous THANK YOU! to our amazing group of volunteers who came out this past Sunday to make the 7th Homeless Connect in downtown Edmonton a huge success. 

 We had our largest number of volunteers yet attend and gave away over 1000 books to the event attendees. 
This is just a small group of our many (many!) volunteers who came throughout the day.

We really want to thank everyone who gave their time on Sunday (some of you VERY early in the morning) as well as your box hefting abilities and your librarian knowledge to help out the homeless and at risk community in our city. This is an incredible event in the city and it is easy to see what an impact just one day can have on many lives. This event grows each time it is held and I hope that many of our volunteers can attest that it is not only fun but also interesting and moving to see how this city can come together to create an event like this. 
You guys are not only brilliant, hard working, fun, organized, and knowledgeable, you are also very artistically gifted!

We would also like to thank everyone who participated in our Most Wanted Books Challenge - we were able to meet a lot more of our specific author and title requests this year than we have previously. Huge thanks to our booth mates - Edmonton Public Libraries for their very generous donations to this program and Community Bookshelf. We couldn't do this event without your donations. 
I'm still reeling with positive energy from how great this event was, we had so much great feedback from the attendees and other service providers and I hope to see many of you back in the spring for Homeless Connect 8 in May 2012. 

Thanks again! from you FLIF board members Shannon & Carly :)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Most Wanted Book Challenge Winners

This little project was an amazing success! Huge thanks to all three of our teams who brought in an incredible amount of books (we were blown away!) and all without spending a dime. What an accomplishment and what an incredible community of generous FLIF members. We collected several HUNDRED books in just one short week - all items that are frequently requested.

There was one team who went above and beyond (WAY beyond!) and collected so many books it created a huge pile in Henderson Hall for us to bring to Homeless Connect this weekend. Congrats to Sarah Zakordonski, Stephanie Foremsky, Caitlin Guse, Stephanie Johnson, Christine, and Andrea for this amazing achievement. 

Again, thanks so much to everyone who participated and everyone who donated books for this  competition. We wanted to give a special thanks to SHAVA (Sturgeon Hospital Auxiliary Volunteer Association) Bookstore who donated a large number of books for this event. This is a fantastic shop with a great selection of used books (and wonderfully organized!). We highly recommend stopping by if you are in St Albert. 

Grandin Mall, St. Albert
Wed-Sat from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM
(780) 458-4655

We will see many of you this weekend at Homeless Connect 7 in downtown Edmonton! 

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The FLIF Most Wanted Book Challenge

The FLIF Most Wanted Book Challenge is on!

Each year at Homeless Connect we have requests for specific titles, authors, and subjects that we cannot accommodate with our generous donations from EPL and the University of Alberta Libraries. This year we hope to provide more of these highly requested books by specifically collecting these items.
Participants in the Most Wanted Book Challenge will work in groups to collect as many items as they can that fall within the parameters of our most wanted list (included below). The team that has collected the most books after one week will be awarded a prize from FLIF. 

Each team will be provided with the most wanted list, a small amount of cash ($10), and an envelope for collecting any receipts. If you would like to participate but missed the noon meeting today it's not too late! Just email us at and we can arrange to get you some cash or you are more than welcome to play with exclusively donated books.
Any books that are purchased with the money must be accounted for with a receipt of some kind (even if it is handwritten). Any unused cash should be returned to FLIF at the end of the competition.  
You can beg, borrow, or buy the books from anywhere and use your powers of persuasion to collect as many materials as possible for our Homeless Connect patrons. Good luck and please rendez vous back in Henderson Hall in on Tuesday, October 11th at noon to tally up the collections and name the winners.

If you have any questions please email the FLIF co-chairs at

Homeless Connect - Most Wanted: 


Types & Titles:
  • Current best-selling fiction (vampire novels, Millennium Trilogy, Game of Thrones, The Help, etc/)
  • Self-help/inspirational/Christianity (Chicken Soup series especially)
  • true crime
  • biographies
  • sports books
  • Archie comics
  • graphic novels
  • crossword books (new)
  • Goosebumps series
  • Children's books (French language books especially)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Read In Literacy Event: Oct 3-7

FLIF members at the University of Alberta take note, there is a call for volunteer readers for the Read In literacy event running October 3rd to 7th

We need readers! The idea for Read In was sparked in Edmonton when the United Nations proclaimed 1990 the year of International Literacy. Last year graduate students and faculty read to more than 5000 students, taking time to explain how reading has been important in their lives.
Read In is about more than just promoting literacy. It's a time for young students to meet role models in their community, and to feel they have a sense of value. This is a very fun activity and schools will provide reading material if you wish. We will also be looking for people to read in other languages than English! We are looking for are Arabic, Cree, French and Aboriginal readers.

Rides to be coordinated by Outreach. If you would like to donate some of your time to read to kids during this week, please email Renee Polziehn at

I will need to know
a) if you need a ride/can give a ride/will take care of your own transportation
b) if you want to read at a particular school or location in Edmonton
c) if you prefer to read in the morning/afternoon and day(s) of October 4-7th
d) if you prefer to read to a particular age/grade
e) other languages you speak/read (Mandarin/Cantonese/Spanish/German/French).
Come join us for READ IN October 3th-7th 2010!

Please think about volunteering an hour or two of your time and let us know if you need more information or would like to organize a group of readers - we're happy to help!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Welcome Back!

The summer flew by and it is already September and FLIF is getting back in action. Thanks to everyone who came out to the first meeting of the year today at noon, if you missed it but would like to be involved keep watching the blog as we post upcoming events.

Today we discussed a few of our upcoming projects including the 7th Homeless Connect event happening at the Shaw Conference Centre in downtown Edmonton on October 16th from 10-3. Homeless Connect is a twice-yearly event where organizations in Edmonton provide services for the homeless community in the city. People can come and see a dentist, get a haircut, career, tax, and debt counseling, and free books from us! We collect donated books from EPL, sort them, and distribute them to the attendees at this event. Huge thanks to everyone who volunteered to help out with Homeless Connect at the meeting; it is always a big event for FLIF and a lot of fun for the volunteers. If you weren't able to sign up at the meeting but would like to participate please email us at ASAP with your availability on Oct 16th and the size of volunteer t-shirt you would like.

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday October 4th at noon in Henderson Hall. At this meeting we will be setting up a challenge for FLIF participants in anticipation of Homeless Connect. Every year we get requests for particular authors or types of books that we always seem to run out of. This year we want to see who can collect the most books from our list of 'Most-wanted' titles with a limited budget and a one week deadline. Everyone is encouraged to form teams and beg, buy (but don't steal!) as many books as they can, but only books from the requested list (we have enough harlequins, thanks!) The team with the largest number of items at the meeting the following week (Oct 11th, noon in Henderson Hall) will win an (as yet to be determined) prize. We will distribute your book budgets in cash and most wanted lists at the meeting on Oct 4th. If you can't make the meeting let us know via email and we can arrange to get the money and list to you at a different time.

A couple of volunteers are needed to run a Community Bookshelf drop off of boxes of donated books at a few non-profits and shelters in downtown Edmonton during the day on Friday Sept 23rd. This should only take an hour or two (depending on traffic). If you are interested and free let us know at or in the comments and we can organize drivers. You don't need a car to participate. This is one of the ongoing projects for FLIF that we run throughout the year in partnership with Edmonton Public Libraries who donates all of our materials, and GELA (Greater Edmonton Library Association).

We are also looking for people interested in forming a new board of directors for FLIF in a variety of capacities - please get in touch if you are interested in participating or want more information. You do not need any prior experience; we are looking for people with a passion for intellectual freedom and the desire to volunteer your time. We are a very open organization so even if you are worried about time commitment we will work to make sure everyone who wants to be involved can be.

Finally we are always looking for people to contribute to the FLIF blog - feel free to forward announcements or articles to or let us if you would like to write some posts and we can give you access to log in and start publishing! It is a great way to get involved, an low-stress way to contribute some volunteer hours at your leisure, and looks GREAT on a CV - FLIF Blogmaster!

Huge thanks again to everyone who came to the meeting, the next important dates are:

Fri Sept 23rd - Community Bookshelf dropoff
Tues Oct 4th - most-wanted book challenge meeting at noon in Henderson Hall
Tues Oct 11th - challenge wrap-up, prizes awarded, and pre-Homeless Connect meeting at noon in Henderson Hall
Sunday Oct 16th - Homeless Connect from 10am to 3pm at the Shaw Conference Centre

If you have any questions or projects you are interested in getting rolling or involved with (like the GELA Women's Prison Library projects) please let us know in the comments or by email and we would be more than happy to share more information.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Homeless Connect

Huge thanks to the FLIF volunteers who came out to volunteer at Homeless Connect this past Sunday. At this twice annual event (May and October) groups in Edmonton provide free services and resources for the city's homeless population at the Shaw Conference centre. Attendees can access a huge range of resources including laundry, hairstyling, dental checkups, councilling, employment assistance, financial services, and (of course) free materials like books generously donated by Edmonton Public Libraries.

This year FLIF distributed over fifteen boxes of paperbacks and children's books donated by EPL.
We want to thank EPL and our FLIF volunteers for their time and committment to this important event.

We are always in need of some specific types of materials including popular fiction like Stephen King and Dean Koontz as well as inspirational books like the Chicken Soup series or religious titles. Pick up of donations can be arranged through our email flifblog(at)

This event is always a hilight of the year for FLIF and it was great to get to meet so many wonderful people. Thanks to the organizing committee and we will be seeing you in October 2011!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Film Night @ EPL - Books Behind Bars presented by GELA

Just a quick reminder that tomorrow (Thursday March 31st) at 7 p.m. the Greater Edmonton Library Association's (GELA) Women's Prison and Reintegration committee will be screening the 30-minute film "Books Behind Bars" at the Stanley Milner Library Theatre followed by a short panel discussion. The film highlights the on-going projects at the women's prison.
This is a fundraiser to help support the projects and the prison library.

Everyone is welcome to attend and since GELA has been such a great partner with FLIF in the past we hope to see a lot of familiar faces there. Suggested donation is $10 or whatever you can afford.

What will your donations do?

  • $20 will send a book and a recording (on CD) of a woman reading to her children and/or family member
  •  $15 will buy a new release fiction book or resource material for the library
  • $10 will buy books or help pay for a subscription for the library. 
No donation is too small and this is a great opportunity to meet some of the people involved in this great project.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Challenged Books

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1999)

2002: Black parents and teachers in Yarmouth, Digby, and Shelburne (NS) objected to this novel, Barbara Smucker’s Underground to Canada, and John Ball’s In the Heat of the Night. The director of education of the Tri-County school board ordered the withdrawal of the three books pending a ruling by the board, but his order was rescinded at a board meeting and the books were restored. In 1993, a school principal in Hamilton (ON) removed the novel from the core reading list for Grade 10 after a complaint from a parent. In 1991, a black community group called PRUDE (Pride of Race, Unity and Dignity through Education) asked Saint John (NB) School District 20 to withdraw this book and Huckleberry Finn from reading lists.

Cause of objection: The novel, which contains the word “nigger,” might cause black students to be mocked because of racial stereotyping.

We finish FTRW 2011 with one of the most widely challenged books that tends to spark controversy. The books we have covered on the blog have been banned or challenged for a range of reasons and by different groups. These issues are not always black and white and often the desire to limit access or remove materials comes from a wish to protect young readers or deny the uglier parts of reality. The importance of Freedom to Read Week is to remember that all information wants to be free - it is not information or books or words that do damage and it is disrespectful and belittling to assume that readers "cannot handle" or will be damaged by book, movies, music, or images. What is important is for readers to be socially and culturally literate and to be able to assess and understand the relevance and viewpoints expressed in different kinds of media.

Happy Freedom to Read Week 2011!

Challenged Books

Trouble on Tarragon Island by Nikki Tate (2005)

2007: A librarian at the Elizabeth School in Kindersley (SK) withdrew this children’s novel from the library’s shelves. The novel depicts a dispute over clear-cut logging in B.C. Cause of objection: In the novel, a girl’s grandmother joins an anti-logging group and poses semi-nude for a calendar. In the first chapter, several boys taunt the girl about her grandmother’s breasts, calling them “bazoongas.” The librarian objected to the bullying scene—the Elizabeth School has a zero-tolerance policy for bullying—and to the word “bazoongas.”

Update: In July 2007, the outgoing principal defended the librarian’s decision. In the autumn of 2007, a new principal reversed the decision to withdraw the book.

Challenged Books

Black like Kyra, White like Me by Judith Vigna (1992)

2000: A patron of the Toronto Public Library complained about this children’s picture book about a black family moving into an all-white neighbourhood and encountering racial prejudice.

Cause of objection: The complainant said the story “reinforces negative stereotypes about blacks and positive types about whites.”

Update: The book was retained in the library’s collection.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Challenged Books

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (2000)

2000: Terry Lewis, a member of the Reform party’s national executive council, complained about the use of this novel by Winnipeg’s River East School Division and called for the book’s removal from school reading lists. The novel has been targeted in other school jurisdictions across Canada as well.

Cause of objection: Lewis, who distributed 10,000 copies of a pamphlet arguing against the book, said that Steinbeck’s frequent use of “God,” “God-damned,” and “Jesus” in profane and blasphemous ways offended Christians and couldn’t possibly have any educational benefit.

Update: The River East School Division took no action. This objection and its disposition echoed an incident in Alberta in 1994, when a member of the legislature demanded that the novel be withdrawn from all high school reading lists in the province.

Reminder: Amy Goodman today!

Just a quick reminder that Amy Goodman will be speaking at the Telus Centre (111 St & 87 Ave on U of A Campus) today at 7:00pm. The event is free and is part of Edmonton Public Library's Freedom to Read Week program.

See you there!

Challenged Books

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban By J.K. Rowling (1999)

2000: The Durham (ON) Board of Education received numerous complaints about the immensely popular Harry Potter books being read in classrooms throughout the board’s schools. A school board official said that the complaints came from fundamentalist Christian parents.

Cause of objection: As is the case in at least 19 states of the U.S. and other parts of Canada, parents were concerned that Harry Potter is engaged in wizardry, witchcraft, and magic-making, and that these activities are inappropriate for young readers.

Update: After listening to the complaints, the administration decided to withdraw the books from classroom use but left them in school libraries where they would be available for book reports. One board member said she had wanted the books to be withdrawn completely from the schools; another member said the board had never been asked to decide the issue, so the books’ withdrawal amounted to censorship. Several months later, after a raucous public meeting, the board rescinded its decision to remove the books. However, in other jurisdictions teachers have been asked not to use the books in the classroom. This is said to have occurred in a school in Corner Brook (NF) and in Rockwood Public School in Pembroke (ON). In 2002, the Niagara (ON) District School Board turned down a parent’s request for the removal of the books from area schools. The parent said the books contained violence and promoted a religion (Wicca) which is against the law in Ontario schools. She said that she had not read the books.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Challenged Books

Glory Days and Other Stories by Gillian Chan (1996)

2000: During the sexual assault trial of a former teacher in Langley (BC), court heard evidence that the teacher had assigned a story, “Invisible Girl,” from this critically acclaimed collection to a Grade 4 and 5 class. The story deals with date rape. The school principal suggested to the board superintendent that the book be withdrawn from Langley schools.

Cause of objection: The story was deemed inappropriate for the grade level.

Update: Almost two years passed before a school board official assured the preparers of the Freedom to Read kit that the book had been withdrawn from the elementary panel but not from all schools in Langley. The book’s publisher, Kids Can Press, also attempted to find out whether the book had been taken out of all schools in the district. The book is still available in secondary school libraries.

Challenged Books

The Seduction of Peter S by Lawrence Sanders (1983)

2002: A patron of the Toronto Public Library challenged this adult thriller about an out-of- work actor who becomes a male prostitute.

Cause of objection: The patron said that the novel was a manual on how to become a male prostitute and that young readers could be affected.

Update: The library retained copies in its collection.

Challenged Books

Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite (1990)

2005: During Freedom to Read Week, the Lethbridge Public Library displayed books that had been challenged in North America. The inclusion of Daddy’s Roommate in the display prompted one library patron to request the removal of the book from the library.

Cause of objection: The complainant said that this fictional children’s book, which has a homosexual theme, was “not a proper role model for children.”

Update: The complainant did not pursue the challenge, so the book stayed in the library.

This is an interesting result for FTRW displays and while it is great that library projects are encouraging discussions it is a bit troubling that someone would (half heartedly) take an arguably opposite message from the week of celebration. Huge thanks to the brave librarians working to encourage social literacy and freedom of information everyday!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Challenged Books

The Little Black Book for Girlz, A Book on Healthy Sexuality (2006)

2006: The Institute for Canadian Values (ICV), a Christian organization, campaigned against this frank sex-education manual for teenage girls. The ICV urged people to write and phone to complain to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the minister of industry and local MPs to drop public funding for The Little Black Book for Girlz and similar books. The ICV also urged people to “monitor their local schools, libraries and other resource centres to ensure that the book is not introduced elsewhere.”

Cause of objection: The book, which is written by teenage girls for teenage girls, encourages lesbianism, describes lesbian sex, contains “obscene” language and provides “misleading information” about safe sex.

Challenged Books

Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak by Deborah Ellis (2004)

2006: In Ontario, the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) urged public school boards to deny access to this children’s non-fiction book about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to students in the elementary grades. Cause of objection: The CJC said that Ellis had provided a flawed historical introduction to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The CJC also said that some children in the book portrayed Israeli soldiers as brutal, expressed ethnic hatred and glorified suicide bombing. The effect on young student readers, the CJC said, was “toxic.”

Update: Although the Ontario Library Association (OLA) had recommended Three Wishes to schools as part of its acclaimed Silver Birch reading program, and although schoolchildren were not required to read the book, at least five school boards in Ontario set restrictions on the text.

Goran Simic at UofA Bookstore - TODAY!

Just a quick reminder that Goran Simic, Edmonton's artist-in-exile for 2010-11, will be giving a reading of his poetry at the U of A bookstore in SUB today from 1pm-2pm. Coffee and refreshments are provided and this is a free event.

Take a long lunch and come out to support FTRW.  

EPL presents Amy Goodman

This Saturday Feb 26th EPL is hosting Amy Goodman (host of Democracy Now) as a part of their Freedom to Read Week events.
Goodman is the first journalist to receive the Right Livelihood Award, widely known as the 'Alternative Nobel Prize' for "developing an innovative model of truly independent grassroots political journalism that brings to millions of people the alternative voices that are often excluded by the mainstream media." The Independent of London named Amy Goodman and Democracy Now! "an inspiration"; placed Goodman at the top of their 20 Top Global Media Figures.
Goodman is the author of four New York Times bestsellers. Her latest book, Breaking the Sound Barrier, proves the power of independent journalism in the struggle for a better world. She co-authored the first three bestsellers, Standing Up to the Madness, Static, and The Exception to the Rulers, with her brother, journalist David Goodman. (
Amy Goodman will be speaking at a free event this Saturday, February 26th at 7:00pm at the TELUS Centre on the U of A Campus (corner of 111 St and 87 Ave)

Check out the Facebook event page and bring a freedom loving friend.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Challenged Books

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (Book - 2006)

2007: After receiving a single complaint, the Halton (ON) Catholic District School Board ordered the withdrawal of these fantasy novels for young readers from the open shelves of libraries in elementary schools. The books were collected at library circulation desks, and students who wished to read the novels had to ask librarians for copies. The board also formed a committee to review the books. Within days, the Roman Catholic school board in Peterborough (ON) received two complaints about the novels and withdrew copies from school libraries. In Peterborough, school employees denied students access to the novels while the board set up a committee to review the novels. The Durham (ON) Catholic District School Board followed suit. The Calgary (AB) Catholic School District told employees to pull the novels from library shelves, not use the novels in classrooms and exclude the books from Scholastic book fairs. In Calgary, the school board also established a committee to review the novels.
Cause of objection: The stories, which are set in an alternative universe populated with talking animals, undermine belief in God and organized religion and promote atheism.
Update: In 2007, the Halton (ON) Catholic District School Board ignored the recommendation of its review committee and voted to ban the novels from schools. The board’s order proclaimed, “Philip Pullman’s trilogy of atheist ideology, carefully couched within the realm of fantasy for young readers, is in direct opposition to the mission statement and governing values of our board.” But a few weeks later, in 2008, the board of the Calgary (AB) Catholic School District decided to use The Golden Compass in schools. “There is no doubt that the text is harsh in terms of its language about organized religion and that it presents a consistently negative view of church, clergy and faith-based institutions; however, there are glimpses of light with opportunities for positive reflection,” the review document said. The board urged teachers, when using The Golden Compass, to use instruction guides to ensure “a carefully planned approach” and a Catholic focus.

FTRW on Campus - Goran Simic at UofA Bookstore

More FTRW events happening on campus this week, Thanks to Carly for sending this along to the blog:

Edmonton's 2010-11 writer-in-exile Goran Simic will be doing a poetry reading at the U of Alberta bookstore in SUB tomorrow, Thursday February 24th from 1pm-2pm.  

Coffee and treats will be provided and I hear attendees are welcome to keep their coffee mugs featuring quotes about freedom to read and censorship. 

Goran Simic was born in Bosnia in 1952. He has published eleven books of poetry, drama, and short fiction, including the acclaimed volume of poems in English translation, Sprinting from the Graveyard (Oxford University Press, 1997). In Canada, Simic has published Peace and War, a limited edition volume gathering poems by himself and by Fraser Sutherland; other books of his poetry and drama have been translated into nine languages. His poems are included in anthologies of world poetry, such as Scanning the Century (Penguin, 2002) and Banned Poetry (Index, 1997). He has received major literary awards from PEN USA and four times in former Yugoslavia. He lives and works in Edmonton, Sarajevo and Toronto.

This sounds like a incredible opportunity and we hope to see you there!

Challenged Books

Wild Fire, A Novel By Nelson DeMille (Book - 2006)

2007: A patron of the Edmonton Public Library complained about this thriller. In the novel, which is set in 2002, a group of powerful Americans secretly plot to provoke a nuclear attack on the Middle East in retaliation for the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. in 2001.
Cause of objection: The complainant said Wild Fire was “just another hate promoting novel.”
Update: The library retained the book in its collection.

Freedom to Read Week

"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. To this end, libraries shall acquire and make available the widest variety of materials." - Canadian Library Association

Welcome to Freedom to Read Week! What are you doing to celebrate or raise awareness this week?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Challenged Books

Throughout the week we will be hilighting some of the books that have been recently challenge at Canadian libraries and the reasons they were opposed. We are using the excellent EPL website as our resource for this feature and we really encourage you to check out all of the information they have available for FTRW and other special events -

To start off with, a classic:

The Handmaid's Tale by Atwood, Margaret (Book - 1985)

2008: In Toronto, a parent formally complained about the use of this dystopian novel in a Grade 12 English class at Lawrence Park Collegiate. Cause of objection: The parent said that the novel’s “profane language,” anti-Christian overtones, “violence” and “sexual degradation” probably violated the district school policies that require students to show respect and tolerance to one another.
Update: In 2009, a review panel of the Toronto District School Board recommended that schools keep the novel in the curriculum in Grades 11 and 12.

FTRW - Story Time for Grown-ups

Welcome to Freedom to Read Week (and reading week on the U of A campus). EPL is hosting a really exciting event this Thursday Feb 24th starting at 7pm at the ARTery - 9535 Jasper Ave.

Come and enjoy some risque, post-valentine's day adult story reading that promises to range from Shakespear to the Marquis de Sade to Woody Allen.

Erotica are works of art, including literature, that deal substantively with erotically stimulating or sexually arousing descriptions. Celebrate Freedom to Read by joining us for an evening of erotic tales. Our readers, Linda Paksi and Tim Anderson, will be reading select erotic stories and poems - many from authors in our collection.

Don't be shy, the price is right (free admission!) - hope to see you there!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

"Parents Against Bad Books In Schools" Group as Scary as They Sound

Reblogged from Jezebel Feb 10/11

"Parents Against Bad Books In Schools" are among a recent surge in groups looking to remove "bad" books from libraries in North America. The definition of what makes a book "bad" in the eyes of these groups can range widely but often focus on homosexual characters, themes, and sex. 
(Challenged books have included Running with Scissors; The Things They Carried; One Hundred Years of Solitude.) Groups like PABBIS are becoming more numerous and better organized. Says Joan Bertin of the National Coalition Against Censorship,
Groups of parents are getting together and organizing in their communities to ban books...I think what's happening is once a book is challenged in one town, people on the same wavelength, it will flag that book for them. For example, we've seen three challenges to Sherman Alexie's teen novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, all within the past three months, two in Missouri, one in Montana.
While not all challenges are successful at getting books removed from curriculum or libraries, 25% (the estimated success rate) is a lot of books. And the problem, in some sense, is the larger issue: this isn't about individual parents throwing out books, although that's sad enough. Rather, as Bertin says, it's not in a vacuum.
We never have a problem with people who don't want their own kid to read a book...We have a problem with people who feel these books are corrosive to the culture, and they don't want them taught in schools. They think it's immoral and offends their religious values, whether they're Jewish, Christian or Muslim. (emphasis mine)
 This kind of moralizing and presuming that one's values should be extended to everyone in society is disturbing but can be difficult for elementary school educators to oppose. It is much harder to make an argument for trusting young readers, having nuanced discussions about real world issues and a diversity of opinions voiced in schools but I think it is a critical issue that librarians have to face.
Kudos to the librarians who have to deal with these social pressures and make intelligent, sane, eloquent arguments for freedom of speech (and reading).

FLIF Wrapping Party *Today*

Just a quick reminder that we will be having a wrapping party in Henderson Hall starting at 6pm today. We will be  wrapping up some choice romance novels in anticipation of our Pint of Romance event following FIP this Friday and there may be some v-day candy involved.
We have organized an informal get together at Lucky13 on Whyte Ave for this Friday evening. FLIF members and their guests are on the guest list until 10pm. Come on out to dance away some of the library school stress and receive the gift of a little love (in the form of some classic Harlequin titles) from FLIF. Everyone is welcome and we hope to see everyone there in their future librarian finest.

There is no cover if you arrive before 10pm - we're on the list as 'library school'

Monday, January 31, 2011

International Week at the U of A

Today is the start of International Week on campus at the U of A. There are over 60 *free* events about global issues happening on campus between today and Friday  and it looks like those of us interested in intellectual freedom could have a very busy week. The full program guide is online here: but there are two events that are of particular interest for library lovers:

*Today* - Monday Jan 31st, 3-4pm in the Education Centre S Rm 129 
There is a film screening of Armed With Knowledge: The Intellectual Freedom Fighters today. I know it is incredibly cold out today, but this one hour film sounds fascinating and a great way to break up a cold Monday.
Does everyone have fair and equal access to information? In the revealing documentary, Armed with Knowledge, progressive librarians come together to discuss issues and problems with information access for marginalized and newcomer communities. Discover the  world of censorship and access through the eyes of your local librarian, and how they fight for your right to information.

Thursday Feb 3rd from 11am-12:30pm
Angelica Tarnowski and Kristen Rumohr from the Millwods Branch library and Dr. Toni Samek of our own School of Library and Information Studies will be leading talks in the Tory Lecture Theatre 1
Out of the Stacks and into the Community: The Library's Approach to Newcomers
Community-led philosophy is a recent  phenomenon that has come to the Edmonton Public Library; but what is it, really? Librarians from EPL will discuss their responsibilities in ensuring that the library is a welcoming and relevant place for newcomers and members of the multicultural community, and how they look for ways to connect with newcomer youth to meet their library needs. Dr. Toni Samek will also deliver a talk about migration and library issues in the United States, written by Kathleen de la Pena McCook, distinguished university professor at the University of Southern Florida and immigration rights advocate.

We hope to see you there as we gear up for Freedom to Read Week later this month. More information about FLIF and EPL events will be posted in the upcoming weeks. 

If you missed any of these or other events during International Week and would like to know more about it, the international week organizers are blogging the week at with some events being podcasted.