PLG Summer 2018 – July Update

A quick update before the end of semester:

  • Our Prison Library bookdrive went amazingly thanks to the many donors who filled up 2 bins completely in June, which were picked up by the prison librarian! She is currently working with the FIMS GRC about a possible visit in Fall, so please keep an eye out for any postings related to that.
  • Some PLG members and executives co-wrote a zine for Sex Work Awareness, with all profits from the sale of the zine going to Safe Space London. One of our Chairs from this semester especially had a role in posting the zines for sale in some locations around London – thank you Jill for your leadership!
  • Our guild meetings have continued with a variety of topics discussed, including de-centering whiteness in library spaces, educational needs, and the presence of police in libraries.

Our current plans are to participate in Pride with other people from UWO marching, and we are starting as an exec team to look forward to and prepare for the Fall 2018 semester. Thanks so much for reading!

Sarah, Communications Exec, Summer 2018

Winter 2018 Updates

Hello, all visitors to this page!

It’s been a while since we’ve been able to update, but here is a post to document some of the things PLG has been up to since Fall.

  • We’ve continued in our weekly meetings and discussion groups, going over topics relevant to progressive librarianship every Wednesday!
  • We put up a super cool display for Freedom to Read Week at the end of February, which had been designed and developed by our current comptroller:
  • One of our co-chairs has been liaising over a long period of time with the librarian of London’s local correctional centers to plan this project, and we are about to embark on a 3-week book drive until the end of semester! We’ll be collecting books at FIMS based on the following list:

Prison Library List

If you would like to know more about projects like this one, where you can send donations of your own (especially if you live outside London), please check out this PEN Canada Prisoner’s Right to Read article.

It’s been a very busy, rewarding, challenging semester but we’re still around and kicking! We look forward to the book drive and to summer semester.

– PLG London Chapter
(posted by Sarah, co-communications executive, Winter 2018)

Welcome Fall Cohort of 2017!

We are so excited to welcome the incoming student cohort for the fall semester! Our first meeting is tomorrow at 5 in the boardroom within the Grad Lounge. If you haven’t met any of the PLG executive committee for the fall semester yet, please see the attached documents for some fast facts. We have A TON of stuff planned for this semester and are very excited to meet with you all tomorrow!


Our First Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon

Did you know that according to a 2011 Wikipedia Editors Survey, less than 10% of Wikipedia editors identify as female?

Edit-a-Thon Welcome

This under-representation of women editors translates to a dearth of Wikipedia content by and about women. To help counter this, on Thursday, July 27, PLG London hosted what we hope was the first of many Art+Feminism themed Wikipedia Edit-a-Thons at FIMS.


MLIS students working on Wikipedia stub articles about Canadian women artists

Over the course of the afternoon, we trained new editors and collaborated on 10 Wikipedia stub articles about Canadian women artists and their work!

Thank you to all of our participants, and please stay tuned for our next Edit-a-Thon.

PLG and GRC present… Human Library at FIMS

PLG and GRC present the first ever FIMS Human Library!

The Human Library will take place on Monday, November 21 from 12noon – 1:20pm. this event will offer multiple sessions focusing on the topic of Information dilemmas, ethics, and challenges.

What is a Human Library?

A human library provides a structure for a community to come together and talk to one another. The idea is that we benefit from sharing stories, and specifically that our stories needn’t rely on asynchronous media such as books and PDFs. The focus is on stories that don’t necessarily fit conventional models of knowledge dissemination, such as publishing. This focus includes stories that stem from personal experience; incomplete or preliminary studies; or, professional practice. In this way, a human library celebrates diversity, the role of people as knowledge producers, and the wealth of personal experience/perspective that people bring to their research.

Our human books will lead five short sessions (15 mins each). Each session will be limited to 4 attendees. Human books will start each session with a brief  overview of their topic and perspective, and then take questions and lead discussion for the rest of the session.

To register, you may sign up at the GRC. You will be able to sign for 5 sessions total – each one with a different book.

Meet the Human Books

Ajit Pyati


Role: Associate Professor

Personal Bio: A first generation Indian-American and native of Los Angeles, Ajit joined FIMS in July 2007 after finishing his PhD in Information Studies at UCLA.  His research interests include critical information studies, international library development, and immigrant information behaviour.  Most recently, he is becoming interested in the intersections between contemplative education and information/media studies.  Ajit is also a certified yoga teacher (meditation teacher certification in progress) and a proud father of a 2 year-old son.

Title: “Re-Envisioning Contemplation in an Age of Overload”

Abstract:  Most of us are aware from our own personal experience about the reality of information overload, increasing levels of stress, and burnout.  In fact, the widespread reality of these phenomena has led the Korean-German philosopher Byung-Chul Han to say that we live in a “burnout society.”  Given this reality, what are ways we can cope or perhaps even push back?  What might be the role of contemplative practices (both traditional and modernized) to deal with these issues?  Could these practices actually draw us further into our own “bubbles,” or might they help better inform our actions to create social change?

Eleonore Shaffer


Role: MLIS Candidate

Personal bio: Based in Vancouver, Eleonore received her B.A. in anthropology from Mount Allison University in Sackville, NB. She is attending the MLIS program at FIMS while on a leave from her position at the Vancouver Public Library. Her interests include travel, crafts, contemporary art, social responsibility, and pop culture. She is currently working as a reference assistant at Huron University College.

Title: Information issues in caring for someone with dementia

Abstract: Becoming a caregiver for a family member can happen very unexpectedly. How do you find the information you need for this new role? How do you manage decision-making for someone with dementia? Over the past three years Eleonore has become a caregiver for her father, who has both Parkinson’s disease and dementia. She will discuss some of the challenges she has encountered in navigating her new role as a caregiver, including patient advocacy, navigating the healthcare system, information sharing between caregivers, and ethical and legal dilemmas.

Heather Brinkman


Role: MLIS Candidate

Personal bio: Formerly a professional volleyball player, Heather is interested in how young children learn about gender stereotypes and how those stereotypes can encourage an/or discourage behaviours, and influence perceptions about limitations with regard to socia norms, career choices, and behavioural expectations. Heather is in her last semester of the MLIS program, she is the mother of three children, and is an assistant coach with the Western women’s volleyball team.
Title: Gender in Children’s pictures books (and other media)
Abstract: During a time where gender and media issues are taking a front seat (think the US presidential election), one wonders where and how ideas about gender norms and stereotypes are formed. Shockingly enough, by the age of five, children have formed fairly rigid ideas about what’s right and wrong for girls and boys, and their ideas about gender are often so strong that they misremember information to conform to gender schemes. A look at the most encouraged form of media for the youngest set – books – shows that children’s picture books are still filled with characters that fit the norm rather than challenge it. Why? Let’s talk about it and take a look.

datejie cheko green, MES


Role: MS PhD candidate

Personal bio: datejie has two decades of combined, international expertise in research, teaching, media production and community advocacy. Her praxis intersects equity, labour, and media through embodied knowledge production and pedagogy. At FIMS datejie is a researcher with the Digital Labour Group and co-organizer of the March 2017 Organizing Equality International Conference. As 2015-16 Asper Fellow in Media, she produced the public event series, “Dialogues with Solidarity Conscious Knowledge Workers.” After receiving such a warm reception at FIMS, she has taken up PhD studies. Her topic is, “Valuing Black people at the future of news-media: toward a praxis of solidarity conscious relations.”

Title: The Case for Radical Attribution

Abstract: We have complicated our lives. Almost all our information and communications are mediated by technologies. We mobilize devices and texts to serve human needs and wants. Yet all senders and receivers, doers and makers are people with bodies, hearts and minds, existing and relating in time and space. Digital or analog, the efforts we make, meanings we seek, integrity of our intentions and dignity of our bodies all come alive in our social relations. But how are we relating? I will reflect on this and make the case for radical attribution as an antidote for our times.

Toluwase V. Asubiaro


Role: LIS PhD candidate

Personal bio: Toluwase had a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Mathematics and a Master’s degree in Information Science. He worked with African Languages Technology Initiative (ALT-I) for a year as a volunteer research assistant. He is currently a medical librarian at E. Latunde Odeku Medical Library, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Nigeria. He is a father, husband, researcher, violinist, computer programmer, mathematician and a library and information scientist.

Title: Taking the Library to the Users: Sailing the Storm during Library Renovation

Abstract: Renovations usually disrupts the activities of the inhabitants of the renovated building especially if alternative shelter is not provided. E. Latunde Odeku Medical Library (ELOML) was due for rehabilitation and alternative building was not provided. This talk describes the practical approach to delivering advanced information literacy programme and other library services to the library user during the renovation which spanned more than two years.

Davin Helkenberg, MLIS


Role: Doctoral Student, Teaching Assistant and Previous Sessional Instructor

Personal bio: Davin Helkenberg is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Library and Information Science program here at FIMS. Her doctoral research examines fictional narratives of sexuality in Young Adult Literature and explores, through in-depth interviews, how these narratives have informed the sexual lives of young women readers. She also taught LIS9364-Young Adult Materials in Summer 2015.

Title: Youth Need (More) Sexually-Explicit Novels

Abstract: Young Adult fiction that contains sex has a contentious presence in public libraries. A long and continuing history of challenges to these books has led to systemic issues of censorship and limited access to materials for young users. These limitations inhibit the potential for Young Adult fiction to be utilized as a way of introducing contemporary understandings of sexuality into the lives of youth. Through my interviews with young readers on this topic, I am learning that fiction can be greatly informative to how readers construct and perform their sexual identities, their relationships, and their sexual fantasies.

Jacquie Burkell

Role:  Assistant Dean, Research; Professor

Personal bio: coming soon

Title: coming soon

Abstract: coming soon


GRC Presents… Student Research Panel

We are delighted to announce that we are partnering with the Graduate Resource Center at FIMS to present a panel of MLIS Student Research!

Doing research during the MLIS at Western isn’t always easy as there is no thesis option, and the opportunities to present one’s findings are few and far between. Our panel is giving 5 students a chance to present their research projects, and our audience will be able to learn more about research at FIMS and what it might look like both content and structure wise.research-panel

Here is a preview of our panelists and some of the great topics that will be discussed.

Siu Hong Yu

Study Title: Just curious… Can academic libraries use curiosity to promote science literacy?

Advisors: Paulette RothBauer and Marni Harrington

Abstract: Most one-shot information literacy workshops offered by academic libraries aim at improving the research skills of participants on using a variety of databases. Rather than concentrating on the research tools, however, can one-shot information literacy programs within the science disciplines be more student-centered and curiosity-driven?

About Siu: Siu is currently on his last semester at FIMS. He is interested in academic librarianship and using his science background to promote science literacy via libraries.

Lindsay Bontje

Working Title: Improving cataloging of maps of countries that don’t exist

Advisor: Victoria Rubin

Working abstract: Currently researching how maps of countries that “don’t exist”, either because they used to exist but no longer do or because they are not politically recognized as independent, are currently cataloged. The goal of this research is to  recommend better cataloguing practices in order to improve discoverability and user access.

About Lindsay: Lindsay completed her undergraduate degree in anthropology at Western 2014.  She completed her co-op at Western Libraries split between the Map and Data Centre and Library Information Resources Management, the technical services department. This is her last semester.

Heather Zella Brinkman

Title: Physically active girls in children’s picture books: the power of exclusion, inclusion and depiction

Advisors: Lynne McKechnie

Abstract: This study expands on a 2013 analysis of how girls and women are depicted in picture books that feature girls and/or women engaged in sport or physical activity. A qualitative analysis of 24 picture books was conducted – with several expected and unexpected findings with regards to indexing and subject access, inconsistency in collection development tools (titles), the variety and nature of sports books available, depiction of athletes (girls and boys), and more.

About Heather: Former professional volleyball player turned librarian and coach who is interested in how young children learn about gender stereotypes and how those stereotypes can encourage and/or discourage behaviours (such as involvement/engagement in sport and physical activity) and influence perceptions about limitations with regard to social norms, career choices and behavioural expectations. Heather is in her last semester of the MLIS program, is the mother of three children, and is an assistant coach with the Western women’s volleyball team.

Emma Kristensen

Title: Adventure, aggression, and nurturing: Gender stereotyping in award-winning Canadian middle grade children’s books.

Advisors: Paulette Rothbauer and Lynne McKechnie

Abstract: What is the extent of gender stereotyping in Canadian award-winning children’s books? This study examined 23 Silver Birch award- and CLA Book of the Year award-winning novels from 2003 to 2015 in terms of character depiction and response to social context. The results showed that protagonists were progressive, but villains and parents were widely stereotyped.

About Emma: Emma Kristensen is a Master of Information and Library Science student at Western. She has a background in design and communication. She currently works at Huron College, and has previously worked at the University of Waterloo. Emma’s areas of interest in research are youth, gender, and reading.

Natasha Smith

Title: Learning in the library: A critical pedagogical approach to adult public library programming.

Advisors: Paulette Rothbauer and Heather Hill

Abstract: Based on data collected through field observations at two public libraries, Natasha Smith analyzed the educational value of programming, and suggested that the adoption of critical pedagogy in programming could further public libraries’ goals of being democratic spaces for serving the community.

About Natasha: I am a second-year PhD student in LIS at Western. My research interests are in social media and nationalism, the history of information practices, and public library history.

Lynne E. F. McKechnie

Dr. McKechnie is our faculty panelist. She will offer her perspective, as someone who has supervised many research projects.

Lynne McKechnie is a Professor at the Faculty of Information & Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario. She worked as a children’s librarian for twenty years. Recently Dr. McKechnie has taught children’s materials and research methods. Her research focuses on the intersection between children, public libraries and reading, emphasizing the perceptions and experiences of children themselves. She is co-author of Reading Matters: What the Research Reveals About Libraries, Reading and Community, (Libraries Unlimited 2006; second edition under contract and underway) and was a keynote speaker at the Researching the Reading Experience international conference (Oslo 2013). Dr. McKechnie has supervised more than 125 Individual Study and  Guided Research Projects at FIMS.

PLG London stands with Newfoundland and Labrador

Dear Mr. Dale Kirby, Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development,

The London, Ontario, chapter of the Progressive Librarians’ Guild strongly condemns the decision to no longer provide funding for 54 public libraries within the province. PLG also stands in solidarity with all citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador opposing the proposed austerity budget.

In times of economic recession, public libraries are a symbol of hope and resilience for individuals whose access to services are being cut back. Furthermore, statistics show that library use rises when regional economies decline. PLG London feels that these cuts are counter-productive to solving the economic crisis, and will only place more stress on the public. During this unprecedented economic decline, the people and communities of Newfoundland and Labrador would be better served by the government investing in their success and development, not by a scaling back of their service provisions.

PLG London also opposes the unequal targeting of rural Newfoundlanders and Labradorians as a result of these cuts. Rural library users experience significant benefit from access to public libraries, particularly in terms of economic opportunity and literacy levels. We feel these cuts, along with the government’s proposed tax increase on books, represent a significant threat to literacy levels in the rural areas of the province. Additionally, many of these communities have expressed that they were unable to continue to support their libraries without provincial funds, leaving their residents without access to library services. Finally, the government’s insistence that 85% of residents remain within a 35 minute drive of a public library is questionable and discounts the number of residents who do not have access to personal transportation.

Finally, this decision also poses a threat to the librarian profession in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Without appropriate funding, many libraries will not be able to operate on a full-time basis, and, therefore, available full-time positions for new librarians will decline. Professionally trained librarians are equipped with skills and knowledge that allow them to best serve their communities and without this kind of staff expertise, the ability of a library to provide optimal services to its patrons is significantly decreased.

We ask that you immediately retract your decision, and would advise that you enter into a series of discussions with library staff, administrators, patrons, and other stakeholders, to determine how Newfoundland and Labrador’s public libraries can be better funded and equipped to serve their communities going forward.

Sincerely, Progressive Librarians’ Guild – London, Ontario, Chapter

Bonnie Brooks Should Not Have Been a Keynote Speaker at OLA

About three weeks ago, Bonnie Brooks, the Vice Chairman of the Hudson’s Bay Company, presented a keynote at the OLA Super Conference. She was articulate, personable, and inspiring. By all accounts, she is a very successful businessperson and she has done wonderful things for the business prospects of the Bay.

It’s clear that she has done wonderful things, because during her talk she described, in detail, how through her leadership HBC has capitalized on its rich history to become a luxury goods retailer. Louboutins, Top Shop, and fur coats were mentioned.

None of this explains what she was doing at the largest library conference in Canada.

Libraries are not Ms. Brooks’ forte. Her speech was peppered with statements like: “I understand that libraries” and “probably like your libraries.” At no point did she make a claim along the lines of “from my years of experience working in a library” or “let me discuss the finer points of reference work.” She isn’t a librarian. She doesn’t know about libraries. She knows about business, and that’s what she spoke about.

 “probably like your libraries.”

We at the London Chapter of the Progressive Librarians Guild have a problem with this. Libraries and businesses are not the same. Businesses exist to make a profit. Libraries exist to provide access to information for their patrons. For public libraries, serving this patron base ultimately means serving the public good.

The Ethos of these fields are starkly different.

For instance, Brooks spoke at length about the importance of customer service. Leaving aside for a moment that The Bay has the worst customer service in the world, customer service, for businesses, is a means to an end. It’s a way to become better than other businesses, have more return customers, and make a profit. However sincerely businesses serve customers, they’re ultimately in it for that filthy, filthy lucre. And that’s okay, because they’re businesses and that’s what businesses do.

By contrast, libraries don’t have customers. They don’t turn a profit. They don’t exist to make money. They have patrons, and services, and materials for use. Their purpose in providing good “customer service” (if I have to call it that) is to better serve patrons and facilitate information access. In other words, service in the library context doesn’t serve an ultimate goal. It is the ultimate goal.

It’s worth asking: just because businesses operate differently, does that mean that we can’t compare what libraries and businesses do? Of course we can compare them! But any comparisons need to acknowledge their differences.

Businesses and libraries are fundamentally different creatures.

There is a dangerous tendency in the library world to conflate the two. We librarians tend to slavishly adore business practices and business leaders. It’s the neo-liberal way of thinking that business-knows-best.

When Bonnie Brooks spoke at OLA, she didn’t make comparisons between libraries and businesses. She didn’t acknowledge the vast sea of difference between them. Instead, she spoke about her knowledge and her experiences. Surely many of the librarians in the crowd had the sense to say to themselves as she spoke: “this could be relevant to libraries if we modify it a bit. Less luxury, more story time.”

We’re certain, though, that many listeners didn’t have this filter. After listening to Ms. Brooks they began imagining their libraries as malformed department stores to be fixed with business tactics.

And it isn’t difficult to see why some listeners could come away with that idea. Bonnie Brooks was given a stage, a podium, and a packed room. She was given two introductions, one of which was by Guy Berthiaume, the Librarian and Archivist of Canada. Her face was displayed on twin screens while she spoke, in the manner of your favourite rock band at a crowded concert, or Big Brother himself.

In other words, she was treated like a hero.

But, business people should not be our heroes. Our heroes should be librarians: people who have enabled the spread of knowledge. Our keynote speakers should be librarians, or at the least experts to whom librarians can directly relate. Our voices of inspiration should share the same librarian values as every library professional, because those values mean something. If business leaders are invited to speak, they should supplement major talks, not give them.

Have we mentioned yet that Bonnie Brooks brought up the nonsense term “synergies”?

Bonnie Brooks should never have been an OLA keynote speaker.


A Concerned Member of PLG London.

Beyond the money: Understanding the UWO salary scandal, Bill C-51 and Canada Post austerity as the attack on the public sphere

The 2015 salary scandal at the University of Western Ontario (UWO) gained media attention for various reasons but what should be emphasized most is the greater context, which is the undemocratic undermining of the public sphere. This context usually leads to a private versus public debate related to the corporatization of post-secondary education. Corporatization implies not only funding but standards, ones that prioritize things, like marketing over research, that do not fit the measures of success of a public institution, evident in the state of the people who produce the research every day. If the choice is between state capitalism and private capitalism, the debate should ultimately transcend the public versus private parameters of argument to ones of organization (whether democratic or capitalist) and distribution of wealth and income (egalitarian or inherently unequal).[1] Nevertheless, the public vs private debate is useful for directing the discussion of the scandal to the undemocratic erosion of the public sphere by connecting the functioning of a public institution to two other issues, namely Bill C-51 and the neoliberal policies, often called austerity measures in the ongoing European crisis, brought upon the crown agency Canada Post.

All three examples of the erosion of the public sphere produce different critiques but ultimately allow one not to see the UWO scandal as an isolated incident that can be resolved with the returning of the salary or the dismissal of an individual. While these actions set precedent just like accepting the contract in the first place, the focus must stay on the context that allows for such scandals to exist. This context creates a platform that allows for solutions to be implemented that represent alternatives addressing structural flaws rather than policies that aim to fix symptoms.[2] While it may seem that one inflated pay cheque, the right to protest once or one home losing delivery is not a cause of concern, for a country that holds itself to a G7 standard, these are indicators of a society showing its increasingly undemocratic side. To elaborate, what is at stake is deliberately irresponsible use of public funding, the right to express one’s conscience without authoritarian consequences, or being denied a right to seek, receive and impart information in a socially sustainable manner that demands a level of accountability, is affordable, indiscriminate, builds infrastructure, generates employment and forms an identity.

A scandal such as the one at UWO, regardless of whether legally justified or not, reveals the issues that plague public institutions facing ever dwindling state funding and increasing influence of corporations. It is not just funding but influence from corporations, which for post-secondary education results in the narrowing of the public sphere by standards that bend the public institution out of shape because it does not follow the same rules in terms of measuring success, revealing the “irrational logic” of capitalism.[3] Therefore, efficiency and effectiveness have very specific definitions that allow funding to be distributed in a highly discriminate way, like setting priority to certain departments in a divide and conquer strategy or focusing primarily on marketing, much like a company might spend disproportionately more on marketing than research.[4] Even without the scandal, if one were to look at how funding is portrayed at the university, the perception of the big “extraordinary” posters would certainly be different if instead of the alumni individuals being propped up, the corporations they stand behind were showcased.

Bill C-51 sets precedent in the previously mentioned undemocratic context by stretching the justification of security by blurring the lines of who or what is deemed a threat or could be in the future.[5] The public sphere is attacked through targeting the individual or group, normalizing the idea of creating a potential terrorist out of anyone and ultimately eliminating any platform for discourse, necessary in a democracy. Meanwhile, the Canada Post austerity measures may not be unique in how a crown corporation is handled but the policies do undermine rights in a multifaceted way.

Eliminating home delivery is the focal point of the transformation plans for Canada Post that is portrayed in the media. However, what is not always mentioned are the flawed justifications behind the policy like the projected deficit derived from questionable calculations and lack of adequate research into exploring alternative options postal services in other countries have pursued.[6]  In viewing the issue within one of the public sphere, it allows one to study further these alternatives in order to maintain the important aspects of a public service. These aspects include affordable and indiscriminate service to individuals, small businesses, and everyone in between, all the while turning a profit (though not always the bottom line), and producing infrastructure and decent wages amid public accountability. Also, not to forget contributing to access to information in a world where we are told everything is online, typically implying its free, yet are increasingly being cut off through ever greater barriers to access, physically or virtually.

While all three examples present different and overlapping examples of the undemocratic undermining of the public sphere, when combined they reveal the underlying shortcomings of each, whether they be stretching the veil of security, irresponsibly prioritizing public funds, or undermining a necessary public service. Within the context of the other two examples described, it is clear that there is more at stake at UWO than an unpopular contract that can be resolved with returning the paycheque or even a certain number of people being dismissed.  A more critical discussion is needed to propose alternatives that deal with the corporate influence and secure sustainable funding that do not discriminate against departments and undermine research by prioritizing marketing and leaving the people, who produce research day in and day out, starving.

Nikola Mitrovic, PLG London

[1] Richard D. Wolff, “Going beyond private versus public”, Democracy at work, (Dec 15, 2014) online:

[2] For a more detailed comparison between universities and postal service see: Robert M. Campbell, “There’s a future for Canada Post as a public institution”, The [Toronto] Globe and Mail, (Dec 12, 2013) online:

[3] David McNally, Another world is possible: globalization and anti-capitalism, (Winnipeg, Manitoba: Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2006) 122.

[4] York University, “Big Pharma Spends More On Advertising Than Research And Development, Study Finds”, ScienceDaily, (Jan 07 2008) online:

[5] For more specific details of the Bill see: Alyssa Stryker and Carmen Cheung, “Six Things Protesters Need to Know about Bill C-51” The [Vancouver] Tyee, (Mar 11, 2015) online:

[6] For more details see: Erin Weir, “Canada Post: A Billion-Dollar Boondoggle?”, Behind the numbers [Ottawa] (Dec 12, 2013) online:

Also: Francis Fortier, Hélia Tremblay-de Mestral and Simon Tremblay-Pepin, Should Canada Post be privatized? : A socio-economic report, Institut de recherché et d’informations socio-économiques (IRIS), (Montreal: April 2014) online:

After Team Harpy

At the London Chapter of PLG, we’re late to the bandwagon. Many other library groups were quick to either condone or condemn the Joe Murphy/Team Harpy lawsuit. We’ve found it very difficult to publicly articulate a position before now. We have discussed it numerous times as a group in private, and we feel that the issues it raises – about workplace harassment in a gendered profession, freedom of speech, and white, male, privilege – are important, pressing issues that librarians need to tackle. Now that the lawsuit has finally settled, what we’ll take away from this case has become somewhat clearer.

There are three main reasons that we have not posted about this issue previously.

For a good refresher of some of the facts of the case, see Librarian in Black, Popehat and
Library Journal.


At first, we were reluctant to post a public statement about Team Harpy because it appeared clear to us, non-lawyers that we are, that Team Harpy was indeed guilty of libel. Their actions fit the bill. nina de jesus stated as a fact, rather than an opinion, that Joe Murphy is a “sexual predator.” Lisa Rabey based her assertions off of this statement. Since Team Harpy did not bring forward evidence to this effect, this claim is unsubstantiated. As a group, we waited to see what evidence would emerge, if any, and who would come forward as a witness or as a victim – and held off judgement until then.

Generally, we’re fans of passionate, loud opinions. We are not fans of censorship, but of debate and dialogue. We do not agree with how Joe Murphy used legal action to silence the accusations against him, even if he was legally to do so. In our opinion, Joe Murphy has ruined his own reputation through the Streisand effect. We’re happy to be able to voice our opinions, but do not claim that they are facts – and that’s an important distinction.

There are a number of supporters of Team Harpy who got carried away and forgot that this lawsuit was a libel case. Joe Murphy, as he has pointed out, has never been accused of any crime. It was nina de jesus and Lisa Rabey who were on trial for libel. Team Harpy supporters wrote about supporting victims of sexual harassment and standing up against oppression. Sign us up for such a cause: but supporting Team Harpy is not the same as supporting victims of harassment.



With that said, the London Chapter of PLG is an advocate of progressive librarianship. This includes supporting gender equality and women’s rights. We acknowledge the inequality that exists between genders and that there are many, many reasons that victims of sexual harassment may not come forward. We recognise that divisions of power create an unequal playing field, and that questioning authority is sometimes necessary and right when that authority is itself unjust, as patriarchy is. However, we don’t want to be blind and conflate our issues. It would be a mistake to overgeneralize and claim that a vote of confidence for Team Harpy is a vote of confidence for victims of sexual assault. It isn’t that clear-cut. And, it would be a mistake to believe libel about Joe Murphy simply because he is a white man who sometimes acts like an asshole around women (opinion substantiated by this video). In short, we cannot hold up this specific case as representative of the worthwhile cause of advocating for victim’s rights. This is not the case for that. Broad strokes, in this instance, would make us guilty of an injustice against Joe Murphy, and nothing else. We also fear that broad strokes also ultimately undermine efforts to support victims of sexual harassment.

nina de jesus’s blog post – the one that got her in all this trouble – was specifically about supporting and believing victims of sexual abuse pre-evidence and pre-conviction. She wrote phrases such as: “Don’t ask for ‘proof’” and “Don’t treat ‘both sides of the story’ as if they hold equal weight.” And we get it. It’s difficult to address the issue of sexual harassment when one side has all of the power. We believe, though, that change must ultimately be achieved within the auspices of the law, and not outside of it, if we’re to make real progress. Doing so prevents the kind of mayhem that can ruin a man’s life.

Real People


Finally, the reason that most held us back from posting before now is also what initially made us want to post in the first place. This case has impacted real people’s lives in drastic ways. At first, like so many others, we wanted to reach out to Team Harpy. We wanted to tell them that we believed they were well intentioned, that we sympathized with their plight, and that we, too, rankle at the thought of sexual harassment. Later, the fact that Joe Murphy is a real person really hit home when his step-father posted this emotional open letter detailing how his son’s reputation has been ruined. We wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

The last people to consider in this case are real, and ubiquitous, but often ignored and overlooked. They are the victims of sexual harassment. Despite the fact that they are the cause of Team Harpy’s initial statements, they are nowhere to be seen in this case. They hang about as phantasmagoria. It is important that we acknowledge the real threat of sexual harassment and the very real silence of victims, even if their presence in this case is insubstantial. We feel very strongly about supporting victims, and we sincerely hope that the Team Harpy debate has raised awareness that will lead to positive change, despite its failings.