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Niagara Falls
Friday, April 19, 2024
Letter: Opinion piece espoused right wing talking points
Cathy Simpson is chief librarian and CEO of the NOTL Public Library. FILE

Dear editor:

The divisive, far right American culture wars have arrived at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Public library and, shockingly, the call is coming from within the building.

In her opinion piece in the Feb. 22 edition of The Lake Report, “Censorship and what we are allowed to read,” library CEO Cathy Simpson has published talking points from the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism (FAIR), calling for “heterodox viewpoints” to be represented in our library.

FAIR was founded in the U.S. for the purpose of campaigning against diversity and inclusion programs, and fighting against anti-racism initiatives.

The Southern Poverty Law Centre, a prominent organization that tracks hate groups, calls FAIR “a key voice amplifying anti-LGBTQ+ pseudoscience.”

FAIR is a slickly marketed group that cloaks itself in the language of fighting oppression while actually working to promote it.

To quote its official podcast from Feb. 14 this year (available on its website), “For more than a year, FAIR has been at the forefront of efforts to eliminate diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.”

The casual reader may not pick up the right wing dog whistles and coded language in Simpson’s letter, so it bears careful rereading.

She advocates for libraries to add to their collection material that negatively portrays “equity.” She wants to add books that argue against fighting systemic racism and combat “transgender ideology.”

That’s pure right wing propaganda — “transgender ideology” is not real and it’s certainly not a problem the Town of NOTL needs to spend taxpayer money on.

The library does not have unlimited shelf space or dollars to spend. Simpson’s opening line implies she wants to prevent books being taken off the shelf.

This is disingenuous and could lead to the removal of existing collections to create shelf space for works that promote a far right wing agenda.

We should not be presenting “heterodox viewpoints” on settled science or human rights, even if some political groups would prefer it. Climate change is real. Evolution is real. Racism is bad. Gay people are not bad.

We should not pay for books that promote Holocaust denial. The well of “controversial” takes is bottomless.

It is not censorship to not buy books. Librarians are highly trained experts in their field, who work hard to serve their community and do not deserve to be publicly pressured by the CEO of the library to compromise their professional judgments.

Please read again the last paragraph of Simpson’s letter — with a slight shift in perspective, it’s quite chilling.

“We will only be truly free to read when authors are no longer afraid to write on any topic, publishers no longer prioritize an author’s identity over their work’s merit, teachers no longer present students with only one viewpoint on issues, and library workers ensure their collections are balanced to include a variety of perspectives on controversial topics.”

The truth is, I don’t think Simpson wrote the letter all by herself.

According to the NOTL library newsletter, From Cathy’s Desk, she was “working with the library division of the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism (FAIR) on a position statement … We’re concerned about book bans but also deeply concerned that identity politics is trumping intellectual freedom when libraries choose titles. Please watch our website and local media for the release of FAIR in Libraries’ statement on Freedom to Read Week later this month.”

Why is the CEO of our community library promoting inflammatory statements on behalf of an American political advocacy organization? Are we to understand that our public library is taking a formal stand against diversity, equity and inclusion?

Matthew French

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