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State Library Victoria stands against challenges to intellectual freedom on International Democracy Day.

Media release

This is an archived media release. Links were correct at the time of publication, but may have changed or expired.

Friday 15 September 2023

State Library Victoria is taking a stand against increasing challenges to intellectual freedom faced by public libraries across Australia, in the form of demands for book challenges, book theft, intimidating protests and threats against public programs including rainbow and drag queen story times.

Public libraries are at the foundations of Australia’s democracy: as trusted institutions, sources of credible information for the community and places of social inclusion. As keeper of Victoria’s history, the State Library’s collection and cultural programming comprises a variety of viewpoints and cultural understandings, and represents a diversity of people, places, events, issues and ideas.

State Library Victoria CEO, Paul Duldig, said that free and equal access to information and cultural expression is a human right which must be protected.

“In the past 12 months we have seen the emergence of coordinated efforts across Australia to disrupt the work of public libraries and impose censorship on library collections, for example forcing the cancellation of rainbow story time events, as well as disturbing threats of violence made toward staff and members of the public.

“While these actions are far more prevalent in other countries, it is disturbing to see these tactics employed in Australia, with a particular target being LGBTIQ+ related books and events.

“State Library Victoria, like all public libraries, collects without political, moral or religious bias. One group in the community doesn’t get to decide what others can and can’t access, or what is included in the State Collection.”

As a library sector leader, SLV is working with the State Government of Victoria, the Victorian Commissioner for LGBTIQ+, Victoria Police, local government, Public Libraries Victoria and the Australian Library and Information Association, to protect library users and workers from harassment and intimidation and to ensure our invaluable network of public libraries remains safe, inclusive and welcoming for all members of our community.

The Victorian Commissioner for LGBTIQ+ communities, Dr Todd Fernando, said Libraries have always been a safe space for LGBTIQ+ people.

Victoria is proud to be a state that celebrates and embraces diversity. LGBTIQ+ Victorians should be able to enjoy the same opportunities as other Victorians, including free and equal access to information and cultural expression and community events.

The government remains unwavering in our commitment to creating a more inclusive and cohesive state, where all Victorians feel safe, are healthy, have equal human rights and can live wholly and freely as full members of our communities."

State Library Victoria CEO, Paul Duldig said, “We are providing public library staff with the training, skills and information they need to deliver community programming while managing diverse perspectives. The aim is to ensure that from here, library programs and events can proceed and that books chosen by librarians for the public are freely available on our shelves where they belong.”