Closing books shuts out ideas

| 29 Sep 2011 | 01:35

    More than a book a day faces expulsion from free and open public access in U.S. schools and libraries every year. There have been more than 9,120 attempts since the American Library Association (ALA) began electronically compiling and publishing information on book challenges in 1990. Twenty-seven years after the first observance of Banned Books Week, more than 1,000 people stayed past 1 a.m. debating a request to remove nine books - including “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien and “Beloved” by Toni Morrison - from a Chicago school district. The books were ultimately retained. “Forever” by Judy Blume was one of more than 70 titles a Fayetteville, Ark., mother requested be removed in 2006. Twenty-five years earlier, the book was restricted in the Park Hill (Mo.) South Junior High School library because the book promotes “the stranglehold of humanism on life in America.” “Throughout history, there always have been a few people who don’t want information to be freely available. And this is still true,” said ALA President Jim Rettig. “The reason more books aren’t banned is because community residents - with librarians, teachers and journalists - stand up and speak out for their freedom to read. Banned Books Week reminds us that we must remain vigilant.” “Banned Books Week is about choice and respecting the rights of others to choose for themselves and their families what they wish to read,” says Robert Hubsher, director of the Ramapo Catskill Library System. “Book banning and challenging has a domino effect. If we stand by and let the first book come off the shelf, we run the risk they will all come tumbling down. American libraries are the cornerstones of our democracy.” There were 420 known attempts to remove books in 2007. Challenges are defined as formal, written complaints filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness. About 70 percent of challenges take place in schools and school libraries. According to Judith F. Krug, director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom, the number of challenges reflects only incidents reported. “We are as busy as we’ve ever been in fighting censorship attempts in schools and libraries,” Krug said. The top five most challenged books in 2007 reflect a range of themes: 1) “And Tango Makes Three,” by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell Reasons: Anti-Ethnic, Sexism, Homosexuality, Anti-Family, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group 2) The Chocolate War,” by Robert Cormier Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Violence 3) “Olive’s Ocean,” by Kevin Henkes Reasons: Sexually Explicit and Offensive Language 4) “The Golden Compass,” by Philip Pullman Reasons: Religious Viewpoint 5) “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” by Mark Twain Reasons: Racism Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the ALA, the Association of American Publishers, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and the National Association of College Stores. It is endorsed by the Library of Congress Center for the Book.