Public libraries and library leaders, including myself, are committed to creating welcoming, supportive and inclusive spaces for all community members. We can support LGTBQ2S+ community members and advocate for equity, diversity and inclusion, while also championing intellectual freedom and freedom of expression.
As a public library we have an obligation to protect freedom of expression and to make public spaces available regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of those requesting their use, as long as they are not engaging in illegal activity and are not violating library policy. Allowing public use of meeting rooms by those with potential or perceived controversial perspectives does not mean EPL supports or endorses those views. It means EPL supports intellectual freedom for all.
Controversial or even offensive speech does not equal hate speech. Censorship is a double-edged sword – while it may support your personal views today it may be used to censor your views tomorrow.
We understand this stance is frustrating to some. Standing up for freedom of expression is always challenging for libraries but is based on the commitment that all people have the right to access knowledge and information, and a belief that a democratic society is better off engaging with complex, difficult and even controversial content, rather than suppressing ideas through censorship.
Speaking personally, I have built my professional career on being inclusive, welcoming and respectful, while upholding freedom of expression. I am not anti-anyone. I am pro free speech.
Chief Executive Officer
Edmonton Public Library