The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) notes with growing concern the trend in Canada of challenges to specific books in schools and libraries across the country. Very often those with a focus on LGBTQIA2s+ perspectives and stories are the target of coordinated complaints. We are heartened by community activity in places like Brandon, Manitoba, resulting in the refusal to remove titles from school libraries based on complaints and challenges to subject matter.
Highlighting these challenges are recent reports of empty shelves in the libraries of the Peel District School Board (PDSB). Initial media reports suggested an extreme book-culling policy had been implemented. The PDSB has since clarified its intention was to assess the collection, and replenish shelves with diverse books reflective of the broader community.
The Peel story underlines a much larger problem.
School libraries in Canada are chronically underfunded and under-resourced. Sadly, the decline of school libraries is not a new story. There are decades of research pointing to under-staffing and under-resourcing of libraries in Canadian schools, while the positive impact of school libraries on student outcomes is clear, especially for students in diverse and under-represented identities.
TWUC calls on all provincial and territorial Ministries of Education to prioritize funding for school libraries, providing local school boards with the means to maintain dedicated staffing and build broad and diverse collections. As with the Union’s position on copyright-licensing for educational copies of published work, the Union encourages the federal government to assist provinces through transfer payments.
Renewed, serious investment in Canadian school libraries is long overdue. Library professionals should be given the freedom to curate collections tailored to diverse and representative student interests and needs, and Canadian School Library Association standards for developing diverse library collections should be followed, in order to create an environment in which library collections are protected from censorious challenges and complaints.
DATE: September 28, 2023