English version of public statement issued by the Italian Library Association about the case of censorship of the municipal public library of Todi and sent to EBLIDA’s and IFLA’s delegates
Ton van Vlimmeren
IFLA Secretary general
The municipal public library of Todi (in the region of Umbria, central Italy): an example of excellence turns into a case of censorship.
The municipal library of Todi is directed by Fabiola Bernardini with great expertise. Her competence is proved by the number of library visits (in 2017 12,000) and by the various activities of book promotion organized both locally and nationally. Unexpectedly Fabiola Bernardini will be transferred to another position at the Town Planning Service of the municipality which has 18,000 inhabitants.
In December 2017 the City Councilors for the Family and Culture issued a directive that requires the transfer in the library of some texts of children’s literature from the children’s section to the adult section of the library. The reason: homogenitorial or homosexual content hidden in the fairy tales of cats or penguins. The Director of the library was then asked to evaluate and report texts that reveal gender ambiguity.
At that time the Italian Library Association (AIB, Associazione Italiana Biblioteche) pointed out that the reference for collections management of public libraries (in the absence of a specific law) is the IFLA-UNESCO manifesto, which states that:
“Collections and services have to include all types of appropriate media and modern technologies as well as traditional materials. High quality and relevance to local needs and conditions are fundamental. Material must reflect current trends and the evolution of society, as well as the memory of human endeavour and imagination. Collections and services should not be subject to any form of ideological, political or religious censorship, nor commercial pressures”
Nonetheless, on 7 June 2018 the Todi Council resolution no. 157 of 24 May 2018 has been officially published foreseeing a “new organizational framework of the whole institution” and – among other things – the transfer of Fabiola Bernardini to the Town Planning Service. According to the resolution the decision is grounded by unspecified needs of the local community.
In fact a paradoxical bureaucratic measure which inevitably brings an indirect form of censorship if you just look at the curriculum of Fabiola Bernardini wich is – among other things – expert in codicology and in cataloging of manuscripts and ancient books.
The case of Todi – first the censorship on the collections, then the transfer of the Library Director – shows that elected representatives – both at local and at national level – are in some cases unaware of the link between the compliance with the Constitution and the laws of the Italian Republic and a public library service based on values of pluralism and participatory democracy.
Taking in account these fundamental values, AIB asks to cancel or revoke the transfer of the Director. For this purpose AIB intends to mobilize, in Italy, in Europe and at international level all the civil society organisations interested in the defence of freedom of expression and of the institutions that embody it.
AIB Press Office: stampa[at]aib.it