MLIS alumnus Chris Stephenson receives 2020 BCLA Intellectual Freedom Award

MLIS alumnus and Head of the Downtown Kelowna Library Chris Stephenson, together with Ashley Machum, Youth Services Librarian at the branch, have received the 2020 BCLA Intellectual Freedom Award. This award is given to an individual or organization that demonstrates significant advancement of intellectual freedom in the public realm for the benefit of British Columbians and that champions intellectual freedom issues in their library, community, province, or country.

In September 2019, Ashley Machum and Christopher Stephenson organized the first Drag Queen Story Time at the Okanagan Regional Library’s downtown Kelowna branch. The program was well attended and well-received, but developing this program was not without its challenges. This award recognizes their work in organizing this program and their efforts to provide access to information and intellectual freedom to their community.

Whether or not to hold a Drag Queen Story Time raised several intellectual freedom discussions. Ashley and Christopher argued for the importance of listening to their community and standing by library values. They convinced skeptics that the tenets of Intellectual Freedom meant that a Drag Queen story time should be a welcome part of library programming, especially when such an event had the support of the local community. Their hard work won the applause of their Library Board, the local media, and all the community members who attended the event.

 

About BCLA Intellectual Freedom Award

This award is given to an individual or organization that demonstrates significant advancement of intellectual freedom in the public realm for the benefit of British Columbians.

The BCLA Board recognizes that our members have a diversity of opinions on the application of intellectual freedom principles. Further, we recognize there are many more conversations to be had, many more voices to hear, and many more debates ahead. As a Board, we commit to working with members to evolve our statements and awards to reflect intersecting interests and values.

The BCLA Champion of Intellectual Freedom Award grows out of the Association’s commitment to uphold the principles and tenets of intellectual freedom, including the right to seek, receive, hold and disseminate information from all points of view—a foundation of a democratic society.

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