On 6 May, an e-mail from a Vancouver Public Library Director instructed all VPL Branch Heads:
“If the Walk for Palestine poster is up in your branch please remove it. We have had a number of complaints about it.”
The poster advertised a number of events around Palestine Solidarity Month, and contained the phrase “60 Years of Israeli Ethnic Cleansing and Palestinian Resistance”.
In subsequent e-mail correspondence, 2 possible reasons for the removal were given:
- the poster violated the BC Human Rights Act
- the poster contravened VPL’s poster policy
VPL’s poster policy is at http://vpl.ca/about/details/distributing_posters_and_newspapers (scroll down for the policy). It clearly states that material that violates the BC Human Rights Act is not acceptable. VPL states that it is currently seeking a legal opinion on whether this could be the case. VPL also does not accept political posters for individual political parties or candidates.
The broad statement of principle cites the Canadian Library Association Intellectual Freedom Statement, and states, “Vancouver Public Library will not distribute material that is primarily commercial or political and does not have compensating cultural or community importance.”
Removing a poster based on complaints, rather than on a measured consideration of how its content fits into VPL’s poster policy seems rash. But what disturbs me just as much is the lack of reaction from most people who received the original e-mail. To hark back to the CLA Statement on Intellectual Freedom, “Both employees and employers in libraries have a duty, in addition to their institutional responsibilities, to uphold these principles.”