Abstract: The narrative of North American public libraries as bastions of intellectual freedom and librarians as champions for books and reading in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is challenged by the history of libraries in the Canadian province of Quebec. In 1902 the Catholic archbishop of Montreal described public libraries as more dangerous than smallpox. Access to libraries and books, particularly novels, books in English, and works by Protestant writers, was severely limited by the Catholic Church, which promoted parish libraries in the place of public libraries and regulated access to existing libraries through pressures exerted in pulpits and through restrictive cataloguing and classification schemes. Francophone librarians also received training on how to be censors at Universite de Montreal, where a course on censorship was mandatory for all students from 1937 to 1961. The legacy of this system of library control and censorship has frustrated the development of public libraries in Quebec to the present.

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