Progressive Librarians Guild
radical views on library & info issues

Response to "Protect Feminist Books"


PLG-CC Responds to Petition "Protect Feminist Books at Vancouver Women's Library"


The statement below is being posted on the PLG website and shared via our listserv and social media in an attempt to respond to a petition directed at PLG that was posted on in February of this year. After repeated and failed attempts to avail ourselves of's mechanism for responses to the petitions it hosts, we hope to reach at least some of the nearly 2800 people who have signed it.

We also wish to communicate to PLG members, and all who are interested, that PLG fully supports the use of petitions as a means of redress of grievance. The right to petition is fundamental to democracy.

We are, however, concerned about the use of petitions, and especially ones launched by anonymous individuals, which are issued without any attempt being made to verify the points of contention addressed by the petitioner.

Furthermore,'s procedure for responses to the petitions it hosts is problematic. In an email from their help desk, after instructions to access links that led nowhere, the message continued: "This is your opportunity to engage with the campaign's audience. Once your response is sent, it will be posted to the petition and emailed directly to the petition creator, who can decide to pass it on to all signers, respond, or take other action." Needless to say, no response could be posted via dead links.

While the PLG-CC is fully prepared (when technical glitches can be fixed) to utilize's procedure, we find it quite odd that they leave the decision of whether or not to share our response in the hands of the anonymous poster, especially when the problem of anonymity is directly addressed, as is the fact that the anonymous petitioner never contacted PLG.

There is no reason for anyone who has concerns about PLG to approach this organization anonymously. We are open to discussion, criticism, dissension. Members of PLG-CC are not anonymous, we can be contacted directly, and our contact information is located on the PLG website.

Elaine Harger
for the PLG-CC
23 April 2017

PLG-CC Response to Petition

To: Signers of the Change-org petition entitled "Protect Feminist Books at Vancouver Women's Library"

From: Coordinating Committee of the Progressive Librarians Guild, March 2017

In February, the University of British Columbia student chapter of the Progressive Librarians Guild posted to its Facebook page an open letter written by local LGBTQ activists addressed to the soon-to-open Vancouver Women's Library. The UBC-PLG chapter posted the letter as an act of solidarity with its authors who had written anonymously due to concerns for personal and professional safety, and to circumvent the possibility of being "outed" by anyone who might object to the letter's contents. Shortly after posting, and in light of hostile comments, UBC-PLG closed its Facebook page to protect the identity of its members. (See a copy of the letter here).

In the meantime, someone using the pseudonym "Scout Finch" mounted the petition which you signed. The petition accused UBC-PLG and PLG as a whole of condoning censorship of books at the Vancouver Women's Library. (See the petition here).

This anonymous petitioner never contacted PLG to ascertain the accuracy of the charge leveled against our organization.

PLG does not endorse censorship, nor are we naive in believing that the holdings of any library are above scrutiny, discussion, debate, and even reconsideration.

Part of the duty of every person working in a library is to engage in constructive and civil dialogue with anyone who challenges library materials. This is a common practice, as can be attested by the longstanding existence of policies that offer guidance in such situations. (See the American Library Association on book challenges here).

The PLG-CC stands ready to assist in facilitating such a dialogue between the LGBTQ letter-writers and the VWL. We believe that intransigence from either group would indicate the presence of a fundamental mindset that denies the legitimacy of the struggles of both the women's and LGBTQ's rights movements. Such denial would make a mockery of the sacrifices and successes of both feminist and gender-identity activists of past and present generations.

At the present time, the well-being of all progressive organizations is threatened by political forces over which we have little control. However, we certainly do have control over how we treat and communicate with one another. We also have control over how we resolve conflicts between groups that should be in alliance with one another.

The PLG-CC is hopeful that a spirit of goodwill can emerge as both sides in this particular conflict take steps toward mutual understanding and respect.