Sex and the Library

A shot from the audience of our panelists.

Our biggest event this term was a panel discussion about sexual materials and libraries and archives. This was a very successful event with over 50 people in attendance.

A shot of some of the audience.

Joanna Kerr developed a rough script for introducing our panel members:

Welcome to our panel discussion: On the Edge – Sex And the Library

We are happy to bring you this event as members of the London chapter of the Progressive Librarians Guild – one of two PLG chapters in Canada.
We would like to thank our faculty: the Faculty of Information and Media Studies for their support of this event, as well as the Society of Graduate Students. Thanks to their support we have a space in which this discussion can happen and we can be brought together, and where we can share some snacks.

The mission statement of our chapter of the Progressive Librarians Guild emphasizes our wish to create spaces in which we can ask questions, challenge the status quo and welcome differences of opinion and perspectives as ways in which we can become more creative, more open, and less afraid of what may be unfamiliar or unclear to us.

We want to be part of a community that welcomes questions – welcomes conflict! because we are not afraid!

We would also very much like to thank our panelists for joining us and for being part of a critical librarianship that welcomes questions and discussion.

We will start by introducing our panelists, who will each speak for approximately 10 minutes. Following this, we will offer a few questions for discussion and then open it up.

From left to right: Joanna Kerr (standing), Lisa Sloniowski, Marni Harrington, Heather Hill, James Miller, and Sam Trosow.

From left to right: Joanna Kerr (standing), Lisa Sloniowski, Marni Harrington, Heather Hill, James Miller, and Sam Trosow.

On our panel today, we welcome Lisa Sloniowski from York University.

Lisa Sloniowski. (Not sure why some of the pics came out so blurry.)

Lisa started at York University in 2005 as the Information Literacy Program Coordinator. Before this, she was the Information Literacy Librarian at the University of Windsor.  Lisa’s research interests surround feminist archives, information literacy and the ways in which our technologies of archivization produce as well as record and store the historical record.
Since 2006 Lisa has been the English Literature Librarian at York University Library. In addition to developing general collections in this area she is developing specialized collections that include comic strips, graphic novels, the Wyndham Lewis collection and (perhaps) feminist pornography.
In 2009 Lisa co-founded the Feminist Pornography Archive and Research Project with Dr. Bobby Noble, Associate Professor of Sexuality and Gender Studies in the School of Women’s Studies. In 2010 Lisa and Professor Noble were awarded a large three-year Social Science and Humanities Research Council standard research grant to research and develop their project.
Lisa’s interest in library work is sustained by the hope that libraries and archives can be progressive places which foster social change – even when institutionally-situated. “Libraries are all about sharing – which is a very radical idea,” she says.

Lisa also believes that if archives are to be bodies of knowledge, they must have knowledge of bodies.

Marni discussed a playboy collection held at UWO.

I would now like to introduce Marni Harrington, who is an academic librarian and the manager of the Graduate Resource Centre for the Faculty of Information and Media Studies, which supports the programs of Journalism, Library and Information Science, Health Information Science, Media Studies, and Popular Music and Culture. Before this, she worked for Western Libraries as a Research and Instructional Services Librarian.
Marni’s research interests include mentoring in academic libraries, the history of Western Libraries and how well the collections at Western Libraries meet the needs of researchers in emerging inter-disciplinary programs.
Marni is involved with a variety of committee work at Western and in the Library and Information Science field, including recently co-chairing the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association Librarians and Archivists Strike Action Committee. She is also one of the librarian members of the non-medical research ethics board.

Next we have Assistant Professor Heather Hill, who teaches in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies here at Western.
Heather received her Master of Library Science and PhD from the University of Missouri.

Her research interests surround issues affecting public libraries, including their history, public policy, access for persons with disabilities, the digital divide, and the library as part of the community.
In 2008 she co-authored a study on the ways in which public libraries acquire romance novels and how much of their budgets are spent in relation to this genre. This study found that:  “Attitudes toward romance novels are shaped in part by librarians’ views of
women and an institutional culture that assumes librarians are particularly gifted in ways that enables them to distinguish high culture from low culture; good books from bad.”

Heather presented recent research to the Information and Media Studies Faculty on barriers to free culture in public libraries in relation to libraries’ use of the Internet Archive, Project Gutenberg, and Creative Commons licensed materials.

Due to some unfortunate technical difficulties we do not have a photo of Dr. Miller when he was speaking. This image was take from the Pride Library website. (

Next, we have James Miller, who is the current and founding director of the Pride Library at Western. The Pride Library was established in 1997 as an official UWO research site, the first of its kind at a Canadian university.

The library started as a source for material for a course that James created in 1991 as UWO’s first-ever class exclusively on LGBTQ issues. James made his personal collection of about 80-100 books available to his students for browsing and lending through his University office

The library grew gradually through private donations from the LGBTQ community.
The library’s exposure continued after its materials were added to UWO’s online library catalogue.
With help from UWO’s provost and the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, the Pride Library was provided with a space in D.B Weldon Library along with $65,000 in funds for renovations. At its opening in 2007 the library became a circulating collection while maintaining access and borrowing privileges for the general public. Today the library holds more than 10,000 books.

James is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Modern Languages and Literatures where he teaches a course named Sex and Culture, which examines traditions of erotic representation in literature, music, art, and performance from Antiquity through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance to the Present Day.

Dr. Samuel E. Trosow

Next we have Sam Trosow, an associate professor jointly appointed to the Faculties of Law and Information and Media Studies.

At FIMS Sam teaches in the areas of information policy and legal issues affecting information professionals. In the Faculty of Law, Sam teaches courses on legal theory, copyright, and intellectual property.

In 2007 Sam published a book with Laura Murray: Canadian Copyright: A Citizen’s Guide, which focuses on the issues of users’ rights, digital rights management, and public licensing systems.
Recently, he has presented at Western on the subjects of Internet filtering in public libraries and the implications of policy making by public library board trustees.
Before coming to Western, Sam was a law librarian at the University of California at Berkeley. Before that he was in private law practice in California. His doctoral work in the Department of Information Studies at UCLA focused on information policy issues.
Sam’s email to the Progressive Librarians Guild’s mailing list this past summer got the London chapter of PLG started. He responded to a message from Edmonton’s PLG chapter with a wish that UWO would start its own chapter. This was enough of a motivator to get things started, and we’re very grateful for his ongoing guidance and support.

Poster for an event we organized. Thursday, November 24th, 2011.

2 thoughts on “Sex and the Library

  1. Pingback: PLG London – A Primer | PLG London

  2. Pingback: On Teachers | Lady Lazarus

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