should reflect
the need to
as widely as
possible, all
minority and
marginal interests and
points of view.

For most Canadian librarians, academic freedom is a right, as well as a responsibility, usually defined in their collective agreements, handbooks, or in their terms and conditions of employment. Academic freedom allows librarians to practice their profession unhindered by those in the community who would restrict or deny free access to information. As academic librarians we also have long defended the right of other members of the academy to the protection guaranteed by these principles.

The Canadian Library Association statement of intellectual freedom says: "All persons in Canada have the fundamental right, as embodied in the nation's Bill of Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to have access to all expressions of knowledge, creativity and intellectual activity, and to express their thoughts publicly. This right to intellectual freedom, under the law, is essential to the health and development of Canadian society. Libraries have a basic responsibility for the development and maintenance of intellectual freedom.

"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."

Hate literature is, of course, an issue for librarians. Collections of extremist literature which can be characterized as hate literature cannot be justified on the basis of a balanced collection. "Balance" applies to competing theories which are subject to debate, discussion and consideration. When literature denies historical fact it is not redressing a balance in discussion, but promoting a historical fiction. Collections dealing with factual matter (historical or otherwise) need to stand the test of accuracy or authoritativeness, or be identified in some way as historical error or invention.

Patrick Power Library
at Saint Mary's University

Most Canadian academic librarians are fully committed to these principles. What remains for us are the challenges, some of which can be discerned in existing systemic barriers. These barriers disallow full recognition and partnership to all those who would comprise an inclusive university.image

Selection of Materials
Purchases usually reflect current curricula and research interests of the institution, and books and other materials are selected and purchased based on criteria stated in library collections policies. These policies should reflect the need to incorporate, as widely as possible, all minority and marginal interests and points of view, as well as those on the frontier of knowledge. While supporting the curriculum, librarians try to include materials that may not be currently taught but which, nevertheless, reflect the intellectual and socio-political developments of a broader society.

Back Contents Next