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Saturday, July 08, 2023


In the 1950s and early 1960s, Ontario librarians began to believe they should have a separate provincial body to speak for ‘professional librarians’ on issues related to unions, library boards, and governments. In 1958, the Institute of Professional Librarians became a section within the Ontario Library Association. Two years later, in 1960, the IPL sought incorporation and became an independent organization. This separation was followed by private legislation in 1963, An Act Respecting the Institute of Professional Librarians of Ontario. Through the 1960s, IPLO served as a clearing house for professional information, helped its members (about 300 by 1970) with employment conditions, offered workshops, and published a newsletter and then a journal to keep members informed of its activities on current issues

Membership in IPLO required librarians to have a bachelor’s degree from a recognized university as well as a postgraduate degree from a library school (usually a BLS) accredited by the Canadian and American Library Association or training which the Institute's Registration Committee considered equivalent to a postgraduate library science degree. Older librarians who did not possess these qualifications before 1960 also gained admission. However, IPLO began to face difficult financial conditions in the early 1970s because there was a legislated maximum membership fee and declining membership. New library science graduates considered IPLO outmoded, a remnant of unsuccessful efforts to achieve independent professional standing. Librarians were becoming more vocal about working conditions, low salaries, and sex bias in management. Academic librarians were collaborating with faculty unions and public librarians were joining the Canadian Union of Public Employees. In 1976, the Institute came to an end. Greg Linnell recounts its story in detail: his article can be downloaded at one of my earlier blogs in 2009:

IPLO was reasonably active in the field of working conditions. The Institute developed general guidelines for employment, drafted sample contracts for individuals, and set forth guidelines for grievance procedures. A code of ethics for librarians was adopted, and briefs were presented to the provincial government on various issues. One notable statement appeared in 1972: a statement on intellectual freedom. There were already two statements by the Ontario and Canadian library associations that were readily available for libraries, but the IPLO Board of Directors and general membership felt a need to address certain issues that were librarian oriented. IPLO had engaged with two newly established colleges, Conestoga and St. Lawrence, in 1970, about issues arising from intellectual freedom. In the case of Conestoga College, while an IPLO committee found insufficient evidence to support a charge of censorship of materials even though three librarians had resigned in September 1970, citing cancellation of an underground magazine, The East Village Other. The committee recommended that the college prepare a written statement on the role of the library and that the librarian prepare a statement on its book selection policies. Two years later, IPLO emphasized the need for more explicit selection standards and librarians’ responsibility to resist censorship when it issued the following policy.

Adopted by the membership at its Annual Meeting on April 22, 1972

The Institute of Professional Librarians of Ontario affirms that library service is based upon the fundamental right of citizens to freedom of speech and the underlying tenet of a democracy that a citizen has the right to choose courses of action, public or private. In order that a democracy />function, the citizenry must have free and unhindered access to information and ideas as presented in a variety of media.

The I.P.L.O. therefore asserts:

1. that a professional librarian will take steps to establish a meaningful materials selection policy for the institution or constituency he serves, and that within the limit of the library’s particular function the librarian will select materials in a manner to avoid the undue influence of opinions of the selectors, to represent a variety of opinions or approaches and to assert that materials will not be rejected because of the race, nationality or political, religious or unpopular views of the creator or because the materials may be considered as depicting the ugly, shocking or unedifying in life.

2. that the censorship of materials is not a valid activity for a librarian, library management or library board.

3. that attempts to curtail access to library materials, or to withdraw books or other materials from library circulation by individuals or groups must be resisted, and that librarians under such pressure should seek the support of fellow professionals, through their professional organization.

4. that the professional librarian will seek to encourage the climate of intellectual freedom and freedom of access to library materials and that he will adhere to the I.P.L.O’s Code of Ethics and to procedures as outlined in the I.P.L.O. guidelines for handling grievances where these concern censorship and intellectual freedom.

5. that no member of the I.P.L.O. shall knowingly apply for or accept a position in an institution which has consistently yielded to pressure to censor, withdraw, or restrict access to materials for citizens’ use or which subscribes to such policies in either a formal or informal manner.

The statement was directed to IPLO’s members in public, academic, school, and special libraries and it differed in some respects from other associations, e.g., there was no reference to the use of library facilities. The statement referred to IPLO’s policies in one instance (clause 4) and in another (clause 2) included library trustees (virtually all who were ineligible to join IPLO). It called for the formal creation of collection policies to guide book selectors and inform administrators and the public about collection development in its broader context.

IPLO was not reluctant to rely on its newly adopted statement. In December 1972, it issued a press release criticizing letters issued by the municipal council of Pembroke to other Ontario municipalities for stricter enforcement of censorship. Of course, it cited its new policy; however, the statement was only in effect for four years until the Institute’s demise in 1976 and did not influence librarianship in Ontario in the way IPLO intended, e.g., ethical guidance. However, the idea of policies for collection development, while not original, would become standard practice in subsequent decades.