Democracy is under attack in the world, and sadly, even here in Canada. Your democratic rights and freedoms as citizens in this country are built upon concepts such as voting rights; the rule of law; the equality of all people; freedom of thought, including political and religious beliefs; the freedom of the press; balancing government of the majority with protection of the rights of the minority; and more.
This week we celebrate and explore the freedom to read, which is interconnected with many other vital concepts, including freedom of expression, the the right to choose to read what you want to read, including access to information, the freedom to seek, use and share information and literature, all of which are integral to democratic citizenship.
Stereotypically, the library is seen as a quiet place, silent even, where not much happens. Yet the library, and especially the school library, has always been a target of censorship, and as such has always been in the middle of the ongoing struggle between democracy and the forces of authoritarianism. School libraries are now battlegrounds at the center of our current polarized political and cultural climate.
The recent news has been rife with reports of book challenges, book bannings– and terrifyingly, even book burnings– in many U.S. states, school districts, and school libraries. As Canadians we cannot assume that this is only an American problem. We must be vigilant in protecting our students’ freedom to read.
Freedom of expression rights are essential to education in a free and democratic society. These are the rights of everyone in the school community, including students. Teacher-librarians are charged with ensuring that those rights are acknowledged and respected.Diane Oberg
Some students are fortunate enough to have many places to turn to for books and other sources of information. Collections at home, public libraries, books stores, and of course, the internet(!). However, access to those things may be very limited, censored, or non-existent for some students. The school library is often the safest and most accessible place for a wide variety of books and other sources of information that are relevant and essential for students.
All Canadians who value democracy have an interest in protecting and building up the institutions that support democracy. The school library is one of those institutions.
Read more about the vital role of the Teacher Librarians and of the school library play in protecting and empowering a student’s Freedom to Read:
“Freedom of Expression Rights and the School Library: Who Speaks for the Kids in Your School When the Censor Comes Calling?” by Diane Oberg (from FreedomtoRead.ca)