Dear Ms Epstein, Board Chair, and Board Members,
The Canadian Urban Library Council / Conseil des Bibliothèques Urbaines du Canada members support Vancouver Public Library’s decision to allow Feminist Current to rent a meeting room at Vancouver Public Library (VPL) in accordance with VPL Board policy. This policy states explicitly that: “Statements being made or positions being taken during meetings do not necessarily reflect the opinions or values of the Vancouver Public Library Board.” Additionally, the policy states: “The renter and/or the program presenter will agree not to contravene the Criminal Code of Canada and the Human Rights Act of British Columbia during the course of their rental/program, and this statement will be included in any rental contract.”
While some of the views espoused by the Feminist Current are distasteful and contrary to the values of diversity and inclusion that public libraries uphold and promote, public libraries must nevertheless continue to defend the fundamental right of law-abiding citizens to access public library spaces, including meeting rooms.
Furthermore, intellectual freedom and freedom of speech are essential to a democratic society, and public libraries must continue to protect these rights for all, even when views are contrary or offensive to those held by most individuals in society including most library staff.
VPL has taken many steps to promote diversity and inclusion in their spaces and services, and in fact has taken proactive measures to ensure that Feminist Current does not breach the Criminal Code.
Every individual, no matter what their background, opinions, and/or beliefs, has the right to freedom of expression and the right to access library services and spaces, permitting their conduct complies with all applicable laws and library policies. These concepts are articulated in the Statement on Intellectual Freedom and Libraries approved by the Canadian Federation of Library Associations / La Fédération canadienne des associations de bibliothèques, and in VPL’s values as endorsed by the VPL Board.
While it is recognized that some ideas expressed through library collections, programs, events and organizations that rent meeting rooms may, on occasion, be offensive to some or even many library users, it is imperative that public libraries continue to uphold the rights and values of intellectual freedom and freedom of expression which are fundamental to a democratic society.
Chair, Canadian Urban Libraries Council / Conseil des Bibliothèques Urbaines du Canada (CULC/CBUC)
CEO, Edmonton Public Library, on behalf of:
Alvin M. Schrader, Professor Emeritus, School of Library and Information Studies, University of Alberta
And the members of CULC/CBUC