Ontario School Board Says It Didn’t Tell Libraries to Purge Books Published Before 2008

by EditorK

A file image of a school library. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Tara MacIsaac
Updated: September 15, 2023

Ontario’s Peel District School Board (PDSB) received criticism earlier this week, including from the education minister, after reports the board told librarians to remove all books published before 2008 for “equity” reasons.

The board’s education director says librarians were not given this instruction and that books with any publishing date that meet equity criteria should be kept.

“Regardless of publication date, older or damaged books that are accurate, relevant to the student population, inclusive, not harmful, and support the current curriculum, may stay,” director Rashmi Swarup said in a statement emailed to The Epoch Times.

A board spokesperson confirmed, however, that a PDSB manual for book “weeding” gives a 15-year “weeding date,” which would bring them to 2008.

When asked for clarification as to what the “weeding date” means, the spokesperson did not directly respond, but sent a statement saying the board is “currently reviewing our training resources and processes,” and that weeding guidelines consider “many factors, including the circulation data.”

A group called Libraries Not Landfills has been raising awareness about the PDSB’s culling of books. The group describes itself as concerned parents and community members “opposed to the purging of library books whose only sin is being published prior to 2008.”

The issue gained attention after the CBC published an article on Sept. 13, including an interview with Grade 10 Erindale Secondary School student, Reina Takata, who said the library shelves have huge empty spaces.

Ms. Takata said staff told students, “If the shelves look emptier right now it’s because we have to remove all books [published] prior to 2008.”

Another student at a school in the Peel Region, Saisha Luciani, says she is also concerned.

“I’m actually very concerned and I’m very confused,” Ms. Luciani told The Canadian Press on Sept. 14. “These books were resources for students like me to get into universities, to write essays, to do better in school.”

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce told The Epoch Times in a previous interview that the board should stop the weeding of books.

It is “offensive, illogical and counterintuitive” to remove books from years past that educate students on history or are celebrated literary classics, he said in an email. He also noted that some older books, such as “The Diary of Anne Frank,” can teach about antisemitism.

PDSB’s Ms. Swarup said the board follows library weeding guidelines set by the Canadian School Libraries Association.

The association’s website provides criteria for weeding out books, including that they may be in poor physical condition, poorly written, or that a newer edition has been published. But it says the “most important reason” to weed is when it is “misleading,” which includes not only being “factually inaccurate,” but also containing “racial, cultural, or sexual stereotyping.”

PDSB’s manual for book-weeding says those with “harmful, oppressive, or colonial content” should be removed. It suggests many books from the past are “inherently racist, classist, heteronormative, and/or sexist.”

Its frequently-asked-questions section includes the question of whether “equitable weeding” is considered censorship.

“The texts that are weeded are not labelled as ‘bad’ or ‘banned,’ but are rather deemed unsuitable for the student learning community as they are not student-centred, identity-affirming, accurate, relevant, and responsive to the lived experiences and diverse learning needs of students,” it says.


You may also like