Sunday, June 26, 2005More on the vivisection conference
The vivisection conference, scheduled to be held at the National Library, has been cancelled. The National Anti Vivisection Campaign has a press release which says ""The National Library didn't really want the hassle and controversy of hosting a vivisection conference, and ANZCCART knew that a lot of library staff opposed the conference and I think they decided that holding the conference there was too risky."
Here's the text of a post I made on NZ-Libs:
Firstly, I think as librarians we should be supporting the rights of others to free speech, whether or not we disagree with their views. We should also be presenting an image of neutrality, or at least impartiality, on controversial issues. It really makes no difference whether anti-vivisectionists will one day come to be lauded as heroes, or castigated as villains. Our impartiality should remain in place, no
matter what the public opinion is of either group. So I share Stephen's disappointment, irrespective of whether or not the staff protests had anything to do with the cancellation of the booking.
Secondly: the National Library is (obviously) a publically-funded institution, so any (legal) group should have the right to utilise the Library's services. This includes booking meeting rooms. It seems problematic to me that some organisations can be expected to pay tax to support the Library, but have librarians lobby against their use of the Library's facilities.
Thirdly: the National Library is part of the Public Service. This carries obligations of neutrality and impartiality. For example: "The public must have no basis on which to believe that decisions are made or policies are applied unevenly. Public servants must observe the principles of fairness and impartiality in all aspects of their work." [State Services Commission, Public Service Code of Conduct].
Now it seems to me that, by protesting against this conference, Library staff have been lobbying to have a policy applied unevenly.
Obviously, I fully support the right of Mark's group to conduct lawful protests against the conference, and of librarians to join those protests in their capacity as private citizens. But, as librarians, I think we should be supporting the right of the conference organisers to meet.