Vast Active Library and Information Science blog. From a recent library science graduate in Wellington, New Zealand. A focus on reference and current awareness tools and issues, especially free, web-based resources.

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Thursday, June 02, 2005
Activists vow to disrupt vivisection conference at library  
And speaking of the National Library....

The Sunday Star-Times reports that anti-vivisectionists are set to disrupt a conference being held at the National Library.

The paper writes: "The Australia and New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching (ANZCCART) conference is a gathering of research scientists and members of animal ethics committees."

There has been an interesting debate of this topic on the NZ-LIBS mailing list. Search on 'vivisection' in the list archives (also on the Knowledge Basket, though that contains many other lists too).

The debate was sparked by Mark Eden of the National Anti Vivisection Campaign (safe for work), who wrote to the list asking librarians to support his group's protests, or for the National Library to cancel the conference booking. National Librarian Penny Carnaby wrote in response, and a number of other librarians chimed in on both sides of the debate.

Many argued that the Library has a responsibility to uphold freedom of information, though Eden and others claimed that ANZCCART itself is guilty of concealing information, an apparent paradox. There were claims that the Library should side with powerless groups in society, rather than powerful ones such as ANZCCART, and that (by charging usage fees) the Library was shutting out some groups, even if it claimed to be open to all. Several librarians asked if they would be able to exercise their right to protest against the conference.

My few cents: the Library should allow ANZCCART to hold its conference. The Library is a public institution, funded by New Zealanders. It therefore should be open to all New Zealanders who wish to carry out lawful activities there. ANZCCART are breaking no laws. What they are doing may be distasteful to some (or even "murder" as one librarian called it). But it's lawful. It's not the Library's place to pass judgements about what is and isn't lawful - if vivisection should be banned, or restricted, that's a decision for Parliament, not for the Library as a public agency.

By those standards I would support the right of the National Front to meet in the Library as well. Equally, the Library should respect the right to lawful protest that NAVC and its allies possesses.

The fact that one person, or group - or many people - object to another group is no reason to prevent them from booking space in the Library. If we adopted that approach, the Library would be unable to hold meetings of gay rights groups (no doubt Destiny Church would object); nor of the Destiny Church (no doubt gay groups would object). Pretty soon no-one would be able to use the Library.

As for protesting, as public employees the librarians are of course bound by the Public Service Code of Conduct, so should give consideration to whether their actions contravene this code or not. (As a purely personal, non-legal-in-any-way opinion, I would guess that quiet protest probably wouldn't....)