New TPL series explores what’s at stake when intellectual freedom is threatened

September 7, 2023 | Media Relations

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In response to the surge of intellectual freedom challenges across North America, Toronto Public Library (TPL) is introducing a year-long series of programs, exhibits and installations that will engage Torontonians in some of the most critical conversations of our time. The new series explores what’s at stake when voices are silenced, civil discourse erodes and access to information is narrowed. It assembles a roster of thought-provoking guests – from global activists to warrior librarians in Ukraine to Big Tech whistleblowers – who are confronting pressing intellectual freedom challenges and their impact.

The lineup is part of TPL’s On Civil Society series, programs that encourage audiences to take part in conversations where they can expect to challenge their own perspectives and learn from one another through civil discourse. 

TPL will also engage Torontonians through a city-wide, multi-channel advertising campaign, which will ask all of us to consider what's at stake when intellectual freedom is threatened.

Examples of posters that will appear in a city-wide, multi-channel advertising campaign.

Examples of posters that will appear in a city-wide, multi-channel advertising campaign.

The intellectual freedom series is generously funded by Toronto Public Library Foundation.

With their commitment to protecting and defending intellectual freedom, public libraries are ideally positioned to host these conversations. Libraries are facing challenges on a wide range of issues, not just with requests to remove books that some people find offensive to our collections, but also with challenges to programs, e-content, Internet access, room bookings and exhibits. Rather than shutting down controversial topics or opinions, public libraries are places where people can access the widest range of viewpoints. TPL's new series builds on the library's other initiatives to raise awareness of intellectual freedom challenges, including joining the Book Sanctuary movement earlier this year.


“To meaningfully participate in the life of our city, Torontonians need access to a broad range of information and ideas, as well as opportunities for open, uncensored discourse to hear, debate and learn from each other’s perspectives. This access and opportunity are critical to the health and vibrancy of our democratic society. And it is libraries, through initiatives like this, that defend, protect and preserve these core democratic and library principles."

- Vickery Bowles, City Librarian, Toronto Public Library

“Providing access to information and diverse voices and perspectives is our mission and these days, those have become fighting words. Public libraries are under increasing attack for providing resources and spaces that some find offensive. It’s never been more important to stand up and defend our right to access information freely.”

- Tracie D. Hall, Executive Director of the American Library Association, one of TIME’s Most Influential People of 2023, and guest speaker at TPL’s program series

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