NEWS: Ontario, Canada, school purges books published before 2008
A Canadian public high school has sparked outrage for removing all books published before 2008 in a so-called push to make its library more inclusive for students.
Erindale Secondary School in Mississauga, Ontario culled roughly 50% of its library books — including the Harry Potter and Hunger Games series — under a new “equity-based book weeding” directive implemented by the Peel District School Board earlier this year, CBC News reported.
“This year, I came into my school library and there are rows and rows of empty shelves with absolutely no books,” 10th grader, Reina Takata, said.
The student said she had been bracing for such a purge after administrators warned her at the end of the previous school year: “If the shelves look emptier right now it’s because we have to remove all books [published] prior to 2008.”
The school’s controversial move was made after the Minister of Education issued a wider directive to school boards earlier this year in a bid to ensure library books were more inclusive.
“The Board shall evaluate books, media and all other resources currently in use for teaching and learning English, History and Social Sciences for the purpose of utilizing resources that are inclusive and culturally responsive, relevant and reflective of students, and the Board’s broader school communities,” the memo said.
But parents and students have argued that the “seemingly inconsistent” process the Peel District School Board then put in place to comply with the directive led to some schools — including Erindale Secondary — bizarrely removing thousands of books just because they were published prior to 2008.
They said the directive could be to blame for books, including “The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank” and “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”, vanishing from shelves at other schools, too.
The board wouldn’t address concerns that schools were weeding out books based solely on publication date. Instead, they argued that the weeding process has always been part of teacher librarian responsibilities with the district and across the country.
“Books published prior to 2008 that are damaged, inaccurate, or do not have strong circulation data (are not being checked out by students) are removed,” the board said in a statement.
Damaged books with strong circulation numbers will be replaced regardless of the publication date, while older titles can remain on shelves if they are “accurate, serve the curriculum, align with board initiatives and are responsive to student interest and engagement,” the board added.
“The Peel District School Board works to ensure that the books available in our school libraries are culturally responsive, relevant, inclusive, and reflective of the diversity of our school communities and the broader society.”
Still, Takata, who is of Japanese descent, argued that removing books by publication date would erase important history.
“I think that authors who wrote about Japanese internment camps are going to be erased and the entire events that went on historically for Japanese Canadians are going to be removed,” she said.
“That worries me a lot.”
Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce, who wouldn’t initially comment on the weeding process, said this week he had written to the school board ordering them to end the practice in the wake of the backlash.
“Ontario is committed to ensuring that the addition of new books better reflects the rich diversity of our communities,” Lecce said in a statement.
“It is offensive, illogical and counterintuitive to remove books from years past that educate students on Canada’s history, antisemitism or celebrated literary classics.”