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Monday, May 23, 2022

Intellectual Freedom Statement adopted by the Canadian Library Association in June 1966

Although the Canadian Library Association-Association Canadienne des Bibliothèques did not adopt an intellectual freedom statement until 1966, its development had a long genesis. As early as 1951, at its Toronto conference, the Ontario Library Association requested CLA-ACB to develop a statement on a “Library Bill of Rights,” i.e., a national library policy on intellectual freedom similar to the American Library Association’s statement revised in 1948. As a result, the CLA-ACB appointed a special committee to explore a “Library Charter” chaired by Gerhard Lomer (McGill University). Over two years, the committee worked on a statement in three sections: the rights of the Canadian people, the services and responsibilities of libraries, and the duties of the government. However, the committee was discharged in 1953, perhaps because CLA-ACB chose a reactive “watch and ward” position focused on its Undesirable Literature Committee (est. 1950).

Yet, this latter committee did not attempt to draft a policy, although it did submit a 1953 brief to a Senate committee concerning indecent publications that declared censorship could be problematic. For many years, meetings and conferences of CLA-ACB mostly dealt with “bread and butter” issues, such as salary standards for employees, standards of service for public libraries, or the development of a projected national survey on the state of libraries. The welfare of librarians and libraries, not issues of national or public policy, was the prime interest of the membership.

The lapsed mandates of the two 1950s committees were eventually incorporated into an Intellectual Freedom committee in 1961. This committee, chaired from 1962–66 by John Archer, began a more purposeful program first of providing information for libraries and the public through a series of articles and then the composition of a statement on Intellectual Freedom for CLA members to debate. John Archer was a 1949 BLS graduate (McGill University) who had advanced to the positions of Legislative Librarian and Provincial Archivist of Saskatchewan. He came to the committee after the Canadian Criminal Code adopted a more permissive view of obscenity in publications—the new test was the interpretation of an author’s “undue exploitation” of sex, crime, violence, or cruelty. This legal application opened the door to works of artistic merit to circulate freely; thus, challenges in the early 1960s swirled about novels of apparent “ill-repute” such as Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Naked Lunch, Tropic of Cancer, Women in Love, and Memoirs of Fanny Hill. As well, a federal statute enacted in 1960, the Canadian Bill of Rights, provided citizens with certain legal rights, such as a free press, in relation to other federal laws and government actions. However, its scope was limited. For example, it did not apply to provincial laws.

A general principled approach, not statements on individual authors or works, was adopted by CLA-ACB. John Archer’s first step came in the March 1962 issue of the Canadian Library, where two articles appeared: “The Freedom to Read” and the “Library Bill of Rights.” Both statements were reprints originally adopted by the American Library Association, which had begun to address the right to read and libraries’ responsibilities as early as 1939. Later, in November 1962, Rev. Edmond Desrochers, S.J., the President of CLA, published an article, “A Catholic Librarian looks at Intellectual Freedom in the Canadian Setting.” Desrochers identified some problems with the ALA statements in a Canadian context. He emphasized the need for a policy that “embodies due respect for the different philosophical and religious beliefs of the Canadian people.” However, he did not oppose adoption of a statement, rather he encouraged the creation of a policy that recognized the diversity of Canada. Finally, in March 1963, the Canadian Library published a final article by Archer, “This Freedom.” It became obvious from its two-page text that “watch and ward” should be jettisoned.

Libraries must play a vital role in the maintenance of intellectual freedom. As a responsibility of library service to the public, the reading materials selected should be chosen for interest and for informational and cultural values. The freedom of an individual to use the library should not be denied or abridged because of factors of race, national origin, or political views. Library service should offer the fullest practical coverage of materials, presenting all points of view concerning local, national and international issues of our times. The libraries and those responsible for libraries must stand as leaders for intellectual freedom and must resist social influences tending to restrict the legitimate right to provide Canadians with worthwhile books.

A CLA-ACB annual meeting was scheduled for Calgary in June 1966. The Intellectual Freedom Committee wisely decided to hold a two-day pre-conference meeting at Banff that attracted about seventy registrants. On the first day, there were topical addresses followed by four breakout discussion groups: two for public libraries, one for academic libraries, and one for government/special libraries. John Archer, now Director of Libraries at McGill University, was the incoming President of CLA-ACB and led a strategy group that condensed the findings of each group and provided a draft for discussion and adoption on the second day. Then, the CLA-ACB Council fine-tuned the draft to be forwarded at two open meetings of conference delegates at the Calgary conference. The following statement, slightly revised at these meetings, was approved Twenty-first Annual Conference on June 21, 1966.

 * * * * * * * *

 Intellectual Freedom comprehends the right of every person (in the legal meaning of the term), subject to reasonable requirements of public order, to have access to all expressions of knowledge and intellectual creativity, and to express his thoughts publicly.

Intellectual Freedom is essential to the health and development of society.

Libraries have a primary role to play in the maintenance and nurture of intellectual freedom.

In declaring its support of these general statements, the CLA-ACB affirm these specific propositions:

1) It is the responsibility of libraries to facilitate the exercise of the right of access by acquiring and making available books and other materials of the widest variety, including those expressing or advocating unconventional or unpopular ideas.

2) It is the responsibility of libraries to facilitate the exercise of the right of expression by making available all facilities and services at their disposal.

3) Libraries should resist all efforts to limit the exercise of these responsibilities while recognizing the right of criticism by individuals and groups.

4) Librarians have a professional duty, in addition to their institutional responsibility, to uphold the principles enunciated in this statement.

* * * * * * * *

Following the adoption of the statement, conference delegates also passed a resolution that they believed (hopefully) would secure legal recognition for libraries.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Government of Canada be requested to recognize both this role and this responsibility by introducing amendments to the Criminal Code specifically exempting libraries from such provisions of the Code as may now or in future restrict or forbid individual citizens from acquiring books or other materials within the scope of the CLA-ACB statement on Intellectual Freedom, such materials to be acquired by libraries for purposes of research.

Not surprisingly, many matters pertaining to the federal Criminal Code were deemed more important by government officials in Ottawa. The impetus for following through on the statement and the resolution soon lapsed.

Although CLA-ACB had produced a succinct and clearly worded document that acknowledged libraries and librarians should be proactive, not reactive, in terms of censorship and freedom of expression, the association’s interest in asserting its policy diminished for several years until a revival occurred in the mid-1970s. In 1974, the Church of Scientology served writs on the Hamilton and Etobicoke libraries because both libraries refused to remove books critical of Scientology, such as Cyril Vosper’s The Mind Benders. Eventually, the Church withdrew its civil action, and CLA successfully redrafted its position on June 17, 1974 (the so-called Winnipeg Manifesto). The revised statement cited the 1960 Canadian Bill of Rights and used more assertive wording, such as “guarantee,” and broadened its scope by referencing “employees and employers.” In many ways, this revision improved and simplified both the OLA 1963 statement and the previous CLA-ACB effort adopted at Calgary in 1966. Nevertheless, issues involving pornography, child pornography, and hate propaganda would require CLA’s continued attention, especially in the 1980s: the 1974 statement was revised in November 1983 and November 1985 to reference the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Shortly before CLA disbanded, it would be revised a final time on September 27, 2015.

John Hall Archer was invested with the Order of Canada in April 1982. The University of Regina’s main library is named in his honour. He died in 2004.

The Bibliothèque Edmond Desrochers at the Centre justice et foi in Montreal, specializing in the social sciences, was named in his honour in 1985. Father Desrochers died in 1987.

Read the contemporary statement adopted by the Canadian Federation of Library Associations upon review on August 26, 2016.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Intellectual freedom statement adopted by Ontario Library Association in 1963

Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, the Ontario and Canadian library associations formed specific committees to deal with the issue of obscene literature and censorship. At mid-century, many librarians reasoned they were selecting books, not prohibiting access or advocating freedom. They worked within an environment where Canadian law did not always always ensure civil rights and liberties for everyone. In this situation, library neutrality was often cited as the best course. Most librarians believed in the concept of treating patrons equally and providing resources for multiple viewpoints. During this period, the general stance by both associations was to issue reminders that self-censorship by librarians in book selection was often a greater threat to intellectual freedom than actions by external local groups, governments, or federal laws. “Watch and ward” became a byword for both the OLA and the CLA when periodic eruptions of censorship occurred that involved libraries. In principle, the library stood as a watchman protecting the public from harm. The associations felt that the answer to a bad book was a good book.

    Of course, “bad books,” even ones legally published, often could not be found on library shelves. An experienced librarian, Grace Buller, in her 1974 court testimony, said, “when I first went to the Toronto Public Library in 1949, we didn’t have a copy of Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.” William Riggs, a Windsor trustee, told journalists at the OLA’s 1951 conference that, “we know librarians sometimes hide books containing strong language under the counters, and often refuse to give out literature on specialized subjects [e.g., birth control] to groups requesting it.” In the late 1950s, Vladimir Nabokov’s critically acclaimed but contentious novel, Lolita, presented difficultly for library selectors: a survey in 1959 revealed only four of twelve libraries in the metropolitan Toronto area had the book available. Sometimes, libraries complied with police investigations: the Toronto Public Library Board surrendered copies of Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer in 1961 after Canada Customs ruled it ineligible for importation.

5th edition, Paris, 1938

In Ontario, film censorship and restrictions on access by classification was more evident until 1960, when the Ontario Attorney-General formed an advisory body, the Obscene Literature Committee, to review controversial books or periodicals and the “pulps.” Book publishers and distributors mostly welcomed the committee’s reports to the Attorney-Generals office because it was a way to avoid expensive, time-consuming legal proceedings. The OLA also believed this provincial administrative process was reasonable and requested a librarian be appointed. Robert B. Porter, the chief librarian at Peterborough Public Library, joined the committee in May 1960. He had served as a lieutenant with the Regina Rifles when the regiment landed on D-Day, June 6th 1944. He had also been a member of the OLA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee in the late 1950s. Like many librarians, indeed most citizens, Porter was reluctant to alter existing conditions in the sphere of intellectual freedom but he was also fair-minded. In many ways, library trustees and librarians preferred consensus based on local, fluctuating “community standards.” Ontario libraries seldom rose to the defence of controversial books or authors. A notable exception occurred in 1955 in Flesherton when the library board and the librarian successfully defended the removal of several books accused of promoting “atheism, profanity and sex.” On balance, Robert Fulford’s 1959 assessment in the Toronto Star was well founded: “Libraries, in this country at least, have never been in the vanguard of the fight against censorship.”

    However, the OLA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee began to adopt a more proactive course after the Supreme Court of Canada narrowly ruled (5–4) Lady Chatterley’s Lover, a novel by D.H. Lawrence, was not obscene in March 1962 because, on balance, it was a serious work of literature. Shortly afterwards, the committee members decided it would be an appropriate time to state clearly OLA’s policy on the question of intellectual freedom and to issue a statement on its position. A new committee chair, Peter Revell, London Public Library, forged ahead for the 1963 annual meeting in Kitchener. He was an English librarian working on his MA in literature at the University of Western Ontario. Revell was familiar with censorship issues and would later pen a short article, “Propaganda and Pornography,” in Library Journal. The OLA committee members worked through 1962–63 to agree on a policy statement. Then, at the first session of the OLA annual general meeting on May 29, 1963, in the theatre-auditorium of Waterloo Lutheran University [now Wilfrid Laurier University], the following statement on Intellectual Freedom was passed by the unanimous vote of the members present.



In affirming its support of the fundamental rights of freedom of the press and freedom to read, the Ontario Library Association declares its acceptance of the following propositions:

(i ) That the provision of library service to the Canadian public is based upon the right of the citizen, within the limits of the law, to judge for himself on questions of politics, religion and morality.

( ii ) That it is the responsibility of librarians to maintain this right and to implement it in their selection of books, periodicals, films and recordings, subject only to the provisions of federal and provincial laws governing the suppression of treasonable, seditious and obscene literature.

(iii) That freedom of the press requires freedom to examine other ideas and other interpretations of life than those currently approved by the local community or by society in general, including those ideas and interpretations which may be unconventional or unpopular.

(iv) That freedom of the press requires freedom of the writer to depict what is ugly, shocking and unedifying in life when such depiction is made with serious intent.

(v) That the free traffic in ideas and opinions is essential to the health and growth of a free society.

(vi) That it is therefore part of the library’s service to its public to resist any attempt by any individual or group within the community it serves to abrogate or curtail the freedom to read by demanding the removal of any book, periodical, film or recording from the library.

(vii) That it is equally part of the library’s responsibility to its public to ensure that its selection of materials is not unduly influenced by the personal opinions of the selectors, but determined by the application of generally accepted standards of accuracy, style and presentation.


    There was little public fanfare about the OLA Statement on Intellectual Freedom. The OLA was a small body of less than a thousand members. A few newspapers in Toronto, Kingston, Brantford, Kitchener, North Bay, and Windsor covered the new policy with brief articles. Yet, the statement marked a new era in thinking about censorship issues for Ontario’s libraries. It provided library boards with a framework, which was non-binding, to develop local formal policies on collection development and defend contentious purchases. In line with contemporary attitudes on social responsibility, it evoked a different approach to censorship and free expression. No longer would it be sufficient to guard ever changing community “standards.” A more proactive approach was necessary to allow freedom of expression for authors and the legal circulation of unconventional materials to the public. The public, not librarians, would judge the morality of an author’s work.

    Of course, the Ontario library declaration coincided with the liberalization of Canadian law in terms of censorship, obscenity, and customs seizures. The OLA statement arrived several months before police in Richmond Hill and Toronto confiscated John Cleland’s Memoirs of Fanny Hill at the end of 1963 and the start of 1964. The novel made a long transit through the court system until December 1964 when the Ontario Supreme Court ruled Fanny not obscene. Later, in 1964, two years after Lady Chatterley’s Lover was legalized by the Supreme Court of Canada, the Ontario Obscene Literature Committee ruled that Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn were serious works of literature that could circulate and be sold in Ontario. The threat of criminal prosecution for publishers or distributors was thereby lifted for similar works and more permissive standards adopted.

    The OLA Intellectual Freedom Statement served Ontario libraries for three decades before major changes were introduced. While many library selectors continued to rely on various interpretations of “library neutrality,” their arguments on selection could be sharpened by reference to the “standards of accuracy, style and presentation” that the statement advocated. Of course, complaints about books continued to erupt from time to time, Xaviera Hollander’s The Happy Hooker being a case in point. In the early 1970s, it was apparent that reliance on a statement alone was not sufficient—libraries and the OLA needed to respond forcefully when censorship challenges arose. The 1972 OLA Kingston conference theme was Intellectual Freedom and Censorship. A revised statement was prepared for approval but, ultimately, rejected by the membership: some delegates believed its principles actually interfered with a librarian’s decision in the selection of library resources. However, the OLA original statement would be revised to suit changing legal definitions and societal changes. The development of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and passage of the Constitution Act in 1982 followed by the growth of the Internet in the mid-1990s accentuated new issues, such as access and social responsibility. In 1990, the OLA issued an Intellectual Freedom Handbook to assist libraries with the changing times. The OLA statement was revised in 1990, 1998, and more recently in 2020 to reflect the rights of individuals as well as the concept of intellectual freedom in a democratic society. Still, there are recognizable passages from the 1963 version, especially the first and fifth clause, that continue to resonate six decades on.

    The OLA spokesperson on censorship in the mid-1960s, Peter Revell, returned to Britain to earn a PhD in librarianship at the University of Wales. He published important studies about American poetry and was chief librarian at Westfield College (London) from 1975 until his death in 1983. The Obscene Literature Committee continued its work until 1972 when it was dissolved because it was no longer needed. Bob Porter continued at Peterborough until his retirement announcement in 1980. He died in 2010.

Further reading:

The current Ontario Library Association Statement on Intellectual Freedom and the Intellectual Rights of the Individual (2020)

Peter Revell, “Censorship Facts.” Ontario Library Review 46 (May 1962): 95–96

Peter Revell, “Viewpoint: Propaganda and Pornography.” Library Journal 88 (October 1, 1963): 3562 and 3585.

D. Granfield and N. Barakett, Intellectual Freedom Handbook (Toronto: Ontario Library Association, 1990)

Pearce J. Carefoote, Forbidden Fruit: Banned, Censored and Challenged Books from Dante to Harry Potter (Toronto: Lester, Mason & Begg, 2007)

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

Four eastern Canadian library associations convene at Montreal, April 1939

The scope for library collaboration across Canada broadened in the 1930s when more provincial library associations were formally organized in Quebec (1932), the Maritimes (1935), and Manitoba (1936). When these new groups joined the established library associations in Ontario (1900) and British Columbia library (1911), liaising more effectively on a west-west axis became possible. For three decades, Canadian librarians had looked to the south—to the American Library Association (ALA) or Pacific Northwest Library (PNLA)Association—to establish professional relationships. Although sporadic attempts to found a national library organization had floundered, library changes at the provincial level and the development of regional libraries were proving to be more successful. The Montreal Special Libraries Association and Library Association of Ottawa provided the groundwork for hosting larger conferences in large cities. Now, there was a firmer basis to move forward on broader issues,

    After the economic slump of the early 1930s, North American librarianship was invigorated by the catchword “cooperation.”  When the ALA returned to Montreal in 1934 for a convention, it debated an American “National Plan” to improve access and mitigate local and state tax inequities. As well, the concept of a Canadian Library Council to represent libraries on a national basis was revived and a decision was made to re-establish an association of Maritime libraries. Three years later, British Columbia librarians and Americans in the PNLA mixed pleasure with business at Harrison Hot Springs in the Fraser Valley on Labour Day weekend, 1937. They saw first-hand the success of the Fraser Valley Regional Library, discussed the issue of trade unionism, and debated whether library collections should aim to be primarily “highbrow” or “lowbrow.” Earlier in the same year, the OLA had met with other associations outside its traditional location, Toronto. At the request of Ottawa’s mayor and city library groups, the OLA, Quebec Library Association (QLA), Ottawa Library Association, the Montreal Special Libraries Association, and two delegates from the Maritime Library Institute held joint sessions at the Chateau Laurier on Victoria Day weekend, 24–25 May. This meeting was the first inter-provincial library gathering to be held in Canada. Dorothy Carlisle, OLA President 1936–37, and other officials hosted almost 250 delegates. A notable speaker on “Books, Readers, and Reviewers” was Martin Burell, the Librarian of Parliament since 1920, who was known as a politician and writer. Other federal officials expressed a desire to cooperate with libraries, notably with the publication and distribution of government documents. A library “bonne entente” was established, and, subsequently, the OLA accepted an invitation by the QLA to Canada’s metropolitan centre, Montreal, for 1939.

Joint Conference of the Ontario, Quebec and Montreal Special Library Associations and the Maritime Library Institute, Montreal, April 10–11, 1939

    In April 1939, at Montreal’s stately Windsor Hotel, a short time before the arrival of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the QLA and OLA joined with the Montreal Special Libraries Association and delegates from the Maritime Library Institute. Members from the recently formed Eastern Townships Library Association and the library group of the Professional Institute of Civil Service of Canada also attended. It was evident a European conflict was fast approaching. Poland and Britain had recently agreed to a treaty to forestall German aggression. The approaching Royal Visit to Newfoundland and Canada in May and June reminded Canadians of their British ties. Over the Easter weekend, newspapers carried the story of Italian forces occupying Albania. The OLA’s President, Kathleen (Moyer) Elliott, from Galt [now Cambridge], relied on Rudyard Kipling to inspire her audience: “If civilization is really slipping from us nothing is to be gained by stopping work to worry. If the values in which we believe are yet to triumph, then the very best we can do is to keep on keeping on.” Kipling’s exhortation to stay the course was wise guidance in spring 1939.

Nora Bateson, n.d.

    The Presidents of the Quebec Library Association and Montreal Special Libraries Association, Helen Haultain and Beatrice Howell, welcomed conference-goers on Monday. There were more than two hundred in attendance anticipating speeches and business meetings. The Montreal joint conference reprised many of the decade’s library developments and presented initiatives for further activity. The speech by the new Director of Libraries in Nova Scotia, Nora Bateson, was perhaps the first-day highlight. She spoke about her efforts to form regional libraries in Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. For as little as thirty-five cents a taxpayer, good regional service could be organized in Nova Scotia. Bateson proposed spending this levy on books and services rather than buildings. Another highlight was a meeting of children’s librarians: Mary Falconer (Halifax), Donalda Putnam (Montreal), and Jean Thomson (Toronto) described services, especially storytelling, in their respective areas. Lillian Smith presided over this session and subsequently used the opportunity to form the Canadian Association of Children’s Librarians (CACL). This new national association, regional in scope at first, was perhaps a response to Smith’s recent observation in an ALA publication that a “sense of isolation” was a chief handicap felt by many children’s librarians. The CACL met in Hamilton in October 1939 and spread westward during WWII to include librarians such as Amy Hutchinson (New Westminster) and Louise Riley (Calgary). It would become part of the Canadian Library Association in 1946.

  Major A.L. Normandin, head of Public Printing and Stationery at Ottawa, discussed the governmental distribution and current listings of national publications. Many librarians, such as W.S Wallace at the University of Toronto, had been pressing the Dominion government to publish a monthly and annual checklist of Canadian federal publications to replace the unsatisfactory annual price list of in-print publications begun shortly before WWI. Normandin was sympathetic, but it would not be until 1953 that the Queen’s Printer would publish daily and monthly check lists with annual cumulations.

    Two McGill representatives, Philip J. Turner, School of Architecture, and Colonel Wilfrid J. Bovey, Director of Extramural Relations and Extension, addressed delegates on architecture and French-Canadian cultural achievements. Turner had overseen the remodelling of the Westmount Public Library in 1936. The colonel’s presentation caught the attention of the Montreal press, especially Le Devoir: Bovey “rendu un mangnifique témoignage aux Canadiens français.” La Presse, the Montreal Gazette and the Montreal Daily Star were also impressed with the McGill presentations.

    Another address by Queen’s University director, Ernest Cockburn Kyte, caught the most attention in English-speaking newspapers. His address was “A Canadian National Library,” by now a familiar theme to librarians but not the general public. Kyte cited the need to collect Canadiana of all sorts but not overstate the need for a new building. He emphasized the urgency to begin collecting immediately. His comments attracted a supportive editorial in the Montreal Daily Star: “It is therefore to be hoped that the committee which has been appointed by the librarians to achieve a national institution will be successful in its efforts and that the public will heartily support the project. Self-respect on the part of Canadians should go far to assure this.” An act to establish a national library came into force in 1953.

    One immediate positive news note at the conference highlighted successful efforts to achieve a Library Book Rate, a postal subsidy authorized by the Postmaster General. Across Canada, sending books by mail was becoming commonplace and was regarded as an educational asset. The 1930–33 Commission of Enquiry led by John Ridington, George Locke, and Mary Black had supported the concept of a reduced postal rate for library books. British Columbia and Ontario librarians had begun to advocate for this rate in briefs and letters to the government. After the Canada and Newfoundland Education Association also supported reduced rates in 1938, the Ontario College of Education surveyed a hundred major libraries in early 1939. The survey revealed more than 300,000 books, excluding book packages, had been issued. Clearly, books-by-mail was becoming a substantial activity. Conference-goers were pleased to learn that a federal book rate would be introduced shortly. By the summer of 1939, a special rate came into effect. Books passing between libraries and their patrons within the same province would be assessed at 5¢ for the first pound and 1¢ for each additional pound. Canadian librarians and educators could toast a small victory.

    The 1939 Canadian library conference in Montreal raised many subjects that would continue to resonate in the library community into future years: subsidized postal book rates, anational library in Ottawa, improved children’s services, regional library systems, and better bibliographic control of government publications. The most significant step, of course, proposed by E.C. Kyte, was the formation of a Canadian Library Association which would continue annual conferences such as the successful one in Montreal. The Commission of Enquiry had supported the idea of a national association and a national library in the depths of the Great Depression but believed conditions were not sufficient for their establishment. By the late 1930s, Canadian libraries had recovered from the worst effects of the global depression; however, wartime restrictions would force librarians and libraries to wait seven years longer for a Dominion-wide association to be formed.

Additional Blogs postings:

The 1930–33 Commission of Enquiry (2013)

Nora Bateson’s regional efforts in the Maritimes (2014)