Open letter to the SFU Library

Boycott Ex Libris

Dear Dean Bird and Associate Dean Jordan,

We, members of SFU Faculty for Palestine, are writing to ask SFU Library to terminate the Library’s contract with Ex Libris. 

Ex Libris (Clarivate) is an Israeli library technology company headquartered in Malha Technology Park in southwestern Jerusalem. 

The Park sits on the ethnically cleansed Palestinian village al-Maliha. During the Nakba of 1948, Zionist forces attacked al-Maliha on July 15, forcibly displacing the 2250 inhabitants. 

Ex Libris’ products are used in thousands of Canadian and American libraries, including SFU. SFU alone has paid over $2.5 million to Ex Libris for its Integrated Library System (front and back end of the library catalogue) since 2017.

SFU’s payments to Ex Libris materially support Israel’s apartheid, continued colonization, and the occupation of Palestine. The money we pay for our library catalogue is contributing to the dispossession and plausible genocide of Palestinian people.

The Israeli tech industry contributes significantly to Israel's economy–Israel is home to more tech startups and attracts more venture capital per capita than any other nation in the world.  This is coupled with the close ties fostered between the tech sector and the military. In particular, Unit 8200 cyber security corps of the Israel Defense Forces, noted for their use of AI systems to “augment” the military’s target selection, acts as a “conveyor belt” for engineers, data scientists, and other skilled technologists into private companies developing everything from covert weapons to library technologies.

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Movement works to end international support for Israel's oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law. The BDS Movement calls for boycotts that “involve withdrawing support from Israel's apartheid regime, complicit Israeli sporting, cultural and academic institutions, and from all Israeli and international companies engaged in violations of Palestinian human rights.”

Libraries have the power to decide where and how to allocate their resources. Alternative integrated library systems (e.g. EBSCO FOLIO) and their requisite components are available and used in major libraries such as the Library of Congress, Michigan State University, and others. Given the relentless targeting of cultural heritage sites, universities, libraries, and archives in Gaza, we are calling on the SFU Library to take action. Choosing not to have Ex Libris in our library is one of the most significant and material actions we can take to heed the BDS Movement’s call for freedom, justice, and equality. 


SFU Faculty for Palestine


Response from SFU Library

Dear Faculty for Palestine SFU, 

Thank you for reaching out with concerns regarding SFU’s subscription to Ex Libris software. We share your deep concern about the actions of the Israeli military against civilians in Gaza, but after careful consideration and deliberation, we do not agree that SFU’s software contract with Ex Libris is supporting the Israeli military, or colonization and occupation in Palestine as you assert.   

The mission of the SFU Library is to enhance teaching and learning, foster research and provide instructional services for SFU students, faculty and staff. All of our work, including procurement and software acquisition, is done with this mission in mind.  


The library licensed software from Ex Libris US (Chicago, Illinois) in 2016 following a thorough and extensive public procurement process. The global company is based in the UK and listed on the New York Stock Exchange, with more than 12,000 employees around the world.  SFU’s decision to subscribe to Ex Libris software-as-a-service was based on its merits as a resource for our academic community. Since then, the software has enhanced our ability to facilitate research, provide access to academic journals, and manage library resources effectively. 

SFU Procurement has advised us that terminating a contract as a form of protest exposes SFU to considerable legal risk. In addition, BC law does not allow discrimination against suppliers as a form of protest. According to the BC and SFU procurement frameworks, if we did seek a new Library Services Platform vendor it would again have to be via public RFP, and we could not exclude Ex Libris simply because some of their global offices are based in Israel.  

We have taken considerable time to discuss the ethical issues surrounding library procurement with the library administration group both in response to your letter, and prior to receiving it. We have raised these questions with our peers at other research libraries in Canada, and plan to continue the discussions within the library community and with SFU Procurement. Thank you again for bringing your concerns to our attention.  

Gwen Bird & Mark Jordan