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Peel school board focused on replenishing after library 'weeding' process criticized

Empty shelves at the library at Erindale Secondary School in Mississauga, Ont. are shown in a handout photo. A school board west of Toronto says it is focused on replenishing resources in school libraries and is planning on reviewing its so-called "weeding'' process after students raised concerns some classic books had been removed from shelves solely because they were published before 2008. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Reina Takata **MANDATORY CREDIT**

A school board west of Toronto says it is focused on replenishing resources in its libraries while reviewing training after its so-called "weeding process" was criticized. 

Last week, Education Minister Stephen Lecce wrote to the Peel District School Board asking it to halt the weeding process — which assesses and removes older books — after concerns were raised that some books were being removed simply because they were published before 2008, based on new equity-focused board guidelines. 

In response to the concerns, the board said last week that older books, regardless of publication date, were allowed to remain in school libraries so long as they were "accurate, relevant to the student population, inclusive, not harmful, and support the current curriculum."

The board's director of education also said the board had not given teacher librarians direction to remove all books with a publication date older than 2008. 

Students and a group of Peel Region residents called on the board to provide a clear explanation on what happened and share details on how libraries with half-empty shelves would be replenished. 

This week, the board said it is focused on replenishing library resources and will be reviewing its training process to ensure consistency in library management across its schools. 

"New titles or replacement books are ordered in the fall semester when teachers return to work and budgets have been allocated," a board spokesperson wrote in a statement. 

"The replenishment process is underway and further, Library Services has purchased both fiction and non-fiction online resources available to all PDSB staff and students 24 hours a day."

The board added that school libraries are different from public libraries "as selection of resources align with board and ministry priorities, address current curriculum expectations, and respond to students' interests."

"The Peel District School Board continues to work to nurture student-centred learning environments that allow children to see themselves reflected in their school every day," it wrote. 

The board has said it follows library weeding guidelines set by the Canadian School Libraries Association. 

The chair of that organization said the process of weeding has long been carried out to ensure collections are up-to-date, in good condition and represent the student population.

Other factors in weeding include assessing whether the book carries misinformation, is relevant to the times, whether it's misleading, or reinforces racist content or information that is not gender affirming, chair Anita Brooks Kirkland said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 20, 2023.

Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press

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