Langley Teachers’ Association president Gail Chaddock-Costello and vice-president Richard Beaudry have been named winners of the 2016 award for the Advancement of Intellectual Freedom in Canada.
The award, from the Canadian Library Association, is given for “their demonstrated leadership and exceptional courage in resisting censorship and opposing violations of intellectual freedom in school libraries and schools.”
Beaudry, a long-time teacher-librarian in B.C. (including at Langley Secondary) and now vice president of the LTA, and Chaddock-Costello, the association’s president, were involved in a series of formal grievances in different schools over an extended period of time.
They took a stand against policies and decisions that would have severely restricted access to reading materials for students and in some cases for teachers, too.
“We fought against book leveling, which was happening at some schools in Langley,” said Beaudry.
Book leveling happens when a school only allows students to access library books at the level they are reading.
“We felt strongly that students should have opportunities to read books that interest them, not just books at their reading level,” he said.
Chaddock-Costello said the award is exciting, given that this was ‘the longest grievance’ she had been involved in her eight years with the LTA.
She said she has fought against racism and discrimination, but this was for freedom of choice.
“A library is not curriculum-based, it should be about choice and letting people choose what they want to read. This grievance involved restricting reading materials in the classroom as well, which meant teachers weren’t getting to choose what extra reading materials they wanted in their classrooms,” she said.
While not central to the issue, the grievance was also against parents’ ability to choose which books appear on library shelves.
“This was an issue many years ago but it did happen again and we fought again against censorship,” she said.
The Langley School District agreed with the LTA, resolving the grievance and rehiring teacher librarians.
“Although the results of their principled determination to support intellectual freedom principles in a school environment are felt most directly by local students and teaching staff, the courage of Ms. Chaddock-Costello and Mr. Beaudry in opposing school library censorship will serve as a model for all Canadians faced with the evolving crisis in school library services,” said the CLA press release.
“If you attack one library in Canada, you attack them all,” said Beaudry.
Being chosen for this award is “very humbling,” said Beaudry.
This is the first time union leaders have received this award.
The Langley pair will receive their award at the Canadian Library Association’s 2016 conference in June in Ottawa.