The Canadian Library Association has announced that Nancy Branscombe and Gina Barber are the recipients of the of CLA's Award for the Advancement of Intellectual Freedom in Canada for 2008. Branscombe and Barber are members of the London (Ontario) Public Library Board as well elected members of London City Council. Here is CLA's press release. . .
Two City Councilors and members of the Board of Trustees of the London Public Library receive Award for the Advancement of Intellectual Freedom in Canada
(Ottawa, May 2, 2008) - The Canadian Library Association/ Association canadienne des bibliothèques (CLA/ACB) is honoured to announce Nancy Branscombe and Gina Barber as the 2008 recipients of the Award for the Advancement of Intellectual Freedom in Canada.
Branscombe and Barber are London City Councillors and members of the Board of Trustees of the London Public Library who have shown courageous leadership and advocacy in defending the principles of intellectual freedom during the contested issue of the extension of filtering of internet terminals throughout the London Public Library in 2007, including the adult areas as well as the wireless environment.
The initial impetus for the London Public Library filtering plan did not come from an outside group or from a group of employees, but from library management, on the grounds that extending filtering was necessary to protect against inadvertent exposure to inappropriate images. Although alternatives to filtering were suggested, such as reconfigured furniture arrangements, better use of privacy screens, and enforcement of existing rules of conduct, and intellectual freedom considerations were stressed, many influential community members and organizations supported filtering, and the issue remained contested at a series of London Public Library Board meetings. Rather than yield to the strong pro-filtering sentiment, Trustee Branscombe put forward a motion at the September 2007 Board meeting to rescind the filtering action. Trustee Barber seconded the motion. After a long debate, the Board voted 6-2 to continue with the pilot filter project. At this meeting, both Branscombe and Barber made impassioned statements on the importance of intellectual freedom and explained how there were less intrusive alternatives. In November 2007, the matter returned to the Board and a final motion to adopt the filtering as a permanent policy passed by a vote of 5-4. By this time, the Board had received representations from the Canadian Library Association , the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario, and others opposed to filtering.
As a matter of political expediency, it would have been easier for dissenting Trustees to support the filtering project, or simply let it go by with mild opposition. The intensity and passion with which the award winners spoke out on this issue in defense of a library core value was done at risk to their political fortunes. While Branscombe and Barber were unable to convince a majority of their Board colleagues of the importance of maintaining the highest standards of intellectual freedom at the London Public Library, their insistence in having the matter aired at the Board brought the issue out into full public view. The CLA commends their courageous example, which serves as a positive influence in London, as well as other Canadian communities grappling with this complex issue.
Nancy Branscombe was first elected to London City Council in November 2006. She represents Ward 6, the area immediately surrounding the University of Western Ontario, and she previously served as City Councilor in the City of Peterborough.
Gina Barber was elected to City Council in 2006, running citywide for the Board of Control. She is an Instructor at Fanshawe College, teaching courses in Sociology and Criminology.
The Award for the Advancement of Intellectual Freedom in Canada recognizes and honours outstanding contributions to intellectual freedom in Canada by individuals or groups. Preference is given to librarians and library institutions. However like-minded individuals such as teachers or authors or groups such as schools or publishers are also eligible. The award is given from time-to-time, not necessarily on an annual basis, and there may be more than one recipient in any one year. To access the list of previous winners please go to the awards section of the CLA/ACB website at: www.cla.ca.
The Canadian Library Association/Association canadienne des bibliothèques is Canada’s largest national and broad-based library association, representing the interests of public, academic, school and special libraries, professional librarians and library workers, and all those concerned about enhancing the quality of life of Canadians through information and literacy.
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Media Contact: Toni Samek, Convenor, Advisory Committee on Intellectual Freedom
Associate Professor, School of Library & Information Studies, University of Alberta
Tel.: (780) 492-0179; Email:
Tags: internet filtering censorship London Public Library Canadian Library Association