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Wednesday, April 17, 2024
Strong reactions to firing of NOTL library’s Cathy Simpson
Community reaction to the firing of NOTL library CEO and chief librarian Cathy Simpson has been mixed.

Members of the public are questioning the Niagara-on-the-Lake Public Library board’s handling of the fallout from a column written by its now-ousted CEO and chief librarian.

There has been a flood of letters to The Lake Report and numerous social media posts in response to the firing of Cathy Simpson over an op-ed she penned to bring attention to Freedom to Read Week.

“I don’t doubt the keyboard warriors will be divided,” Lara Davidson wrote. “Just like the pickleball outdoor court, the noise bylaw, horse and carriage business in Old Town or the rainbow crosswalk in front of the community centre.”

She also found the timing of Simpson’s firing ironic.

“How ironic that the chief librarian was fired over Freedom to Read Week,” Davidson wrote.

Another resident, Patrick Wilson, took library board chair Daryl Novak to task.

“After rereading (Simpson’s) op-ed and then reviewing the reasoning for the dismissal presented by Daryl Novak, I must conclude that he has used her drawing reference to FAIR, the U.S. organization which promotes freedom to present ideas across the political spectrum as an extremely weak argument,” Wilson said.

Another NOTL resident, Elizabeth Masson, agreed with the decision to terminate Simpson’s employment but said the board needs to be more accountable to taxpayers.

“I think the townspeople of Niagara-on-the-Lake, whose taxes provide $886,461 of the operating budget of the library, deserve quite a bit more transparency about who sits on the library’s board and how its decisions are made,” she wrote.

Reaction also came from outside NOTL. Toronto resident George Dunbar cited what he called “the recent and dangerous trend of banning the speech of others whose views are at odds with our own.

“It’s bad enough that such a once-revered right in democratic societies has been eroded to the extent that public discussion and opinion (particularly in schools and universities) has now been extended to publishers and libraries.”

Hamilton’s Murray McCabe, who says he is a retired chief librarian himself, said the wrong person was fired.

“The only people that should have been fired over Ms. Simpson’s article are the NOTL library board for not standing with her during this controversy,” he wrote.

“As with most censorship issues, those that want to ban books or stop people from sharing opposing viewpoints see only what they want to see and are determined to stamp out anyone that does not comply with their view of the world.”

Reaction was also swift on X (formerly Twitter). St. Catharines resident and one-time People’s Party of Canada candidate Rebecca Hahn condemned Simpson’s firing. 

“Free speech is slipping through our fingers at an alarming rate,” she posted.

And Angel Eduardo, a senior writer and editor for the U.S.-based Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), was dismayed that Simpson was fired for taking “inspiration from (FAIR) and (encouraging) viewpoint diversity in library collections. Madness.”

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