freedom to read 

Intellectual freedom supported If you are a fan of Pique Newsmagazine and would like to read about the latest happenings from Whistler you won't be able to do it at any of the libraries of the Fraser Valley Regional Library Board. That's because Pique fits under the class of free publication with paid advertising — a class of publication banned by libraries in Abbottsford, Langley, Maple Ridge and Mission — in an attempt to get a Lower Mainland gay and lesbian publication off the shelves. Xtra West, contains personal ads which speak of bondage, boytoys, domination and sado-masochism. Librarians across the province say the drive to remove Xtra West from library shelves amounts to censorship, while supporters of the ban say it is a move to protect children from the information contained in the publication. Joan Richoz, librarian at the Whistler Public Library says it's a perfect issue to point to the importance of the annual Freedom to Read Week. The Whistler Public Library is recognizing Freedom to Read Week Feb. 27- March 5. "The inability of Pique to go on the shelves of some libraries in the Fraser Valley is a good indication of the far-reaching implications decisions can have when it come to access to material," Richoz says. She says the local library board has written a statement of intellectual freedom into its constitution. "It is the responsibility of libraries to guarantee and facilitate access to all expressions of knowledge and intellectual activity including those which some elements of society may consider to be unconventional, unpopular or unacceptable," the statement says. According to Richoz, when library boards start to decide what should and should not be displayed on their shelves, they start walking the fine line of censorship. "I would not want to be a librarian in the Fraser Valley right now," she says. "They are making some real big decisions right now. Just because ideas are unpopular doesn't mean they shouldn't be in the library." In order to promote awareness of the number of books which have been removed from library shelves, or at least challenged, library staff have set up a display of challenged books. They range from children's books about native culture to Salmon Rushdie's The Satanic Verses. Richoz says the library will also be passing out a censorship trivia quiz.

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