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Library fights censorship with banned book list

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Innisfil's public library is taking a stand against censorship and fighting against those who wish to limit "intellectual freedom."

The Innisfil ideaLab & Library has launched a "Book Sanctuary," a collection of 50 books that have either been challenged or outright banned for their content.

"It provides shelter and access to endangered books," said Erin Scuccimarri, Innisfil ideaLab & Library CEO. "Not just in our community but across Canada, and of course, we've seen a lot of book banning and challenges in the U.S."

The collection includes titles such as Anne Frank's 'The Diary of a Young Girl,' Margaret Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale,' and Rupi Kaur's 'Milk and Honey,' among others.

Erin Scuccimarri pulls out Margaret Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale' off the Book Sanctuary shelf on Oct. 16, 2023 (Christian D'Avino/CTV News). Scuccimarri said it also emphasizes 2SLGBTQ+ books, among the most challenged today.

"Libraries are facing intellectual freedom challenges on a wide range of issues, not just our books, but also our programming," she said. "Among the biggest challenges here is our drag queen storytime. It's part of our strategic direction to speak up for diversity, equity and inclusion. So we are looking for different programming, services and materials that actually bring focus to inclusion."

The move comes at a time when, globally, many well-known books are being re-evaluated, rewritten, and, sometimes, outright banned from shelves.

Last month, Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce asked the Peel District School Board to halt its removal process of books. That came after residents said libraries appeared to be removing books simply because they were published before 2008, based on new board guidelines.

Last spring, a packed high school gymnasium in Brandon, Manitoba, applauded the local school board's decision to reject a request to remove books about sexual orientation and gender identity.

"We're quite lucky to have a team that's dedicated to equity, diversity and inclusion at the library," Scuccimarri added. "So our staff are working together in a working group to look at even policy changes that need to happen so that we can always ensure that we're representing all of the voices in our community and bringing focus to the issues."

The library said it's looking to continue growing its collection of challenged or banned books, with the sanctuary here to stay.  

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