SAXTON B. LITTLE FREE LIBRARY
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SEPTEMBER 20, 2010
Banned Book Week 2010
In the coming few weeks you are bound to see book displays in public libraries and book stores celebrating our freedom to read. Banned Book Week is an annual campaign to make people aware of books that have been challenged or banned, mostly in schools and libraries. This awareness campaign was started in 1982 by First Amendment and library activist, Judith Krug. Krug passed away in April of 2009 but has left us with an event that encourages us to ensure our right to read the books we choose.
Banned Book Week is sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA), the American Booksellers Association, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE), American Society of Journalists and Authors, Association of American Publishers, National Association of College Stores, and endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. You can read more about it by visiting http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/banned/bannedbooksweek/index.cfm. You can see the 2009-2010 list of challenged books by clicking here.
The most frequent question we hear is "Why is a book banned?". Some are banned for sexual content, violence, religion, profanity and others for point of view. In 2009 The American Library Association published these statistics:
Over the past eight years, here’s WHY 3,736 works were challenged:
* 1,225 challenges due to “sexually explicit” material
At Saxton B. we have had very few challenges over the 28 years I've worked in the library but one recent incident reminds me that it is important to be vigilant in allowing each of us to Think for Yourself and Let Others Do the Same. In 2009, the book In the Middle Of the Night: The Shocking True Story of a Family Murdered in Cold Blood by Brian McDonald was published. It is McDonald's true crime accounting of the horrific murder of Jennifer Hawke Petit and her two daughters,Hayley and Michaela in a Cheshire home invasion, July 23rd, 2007. The Cheshire Public Library as well as many other public libraries in the state were challenged to remove the book from their shelves. Ramona Harten, director of the Cheshire Public Library, decided to purchase the book and make it available to residents. Harten stated that, "despite what she described as a “very emotional” and negative reaction to the idea of the book, she felt it was her professional obligation to offer the book at the library. Our job is to let the readers decide,” said Harten. “There are 100,000 books in our collection. Something is always going to offend someone.” Saxton B. had two requests for the book and I decided to purchase it for our collection. Sometime very soon after the two requesting patrons had read the book, a very well dressed Columbia resident, visited the library, got a new library card and borrowed the book. Call it gut feeling but something told me we'd never see the book again. And we didn't. Overdue notices and the billing process did not see the book returned. Though it would be hard to prove, this is what we in libraries see as a subtle form of censorship. Simply borrow the book and don't return it. Having no further requests for the book, time has gone by and it hasn't been replaced. I aim to remedy that this week by ordering a new copy for our collection.
We invite you to visit our display, take a chance and read a banned book and let us know what banned book was your favorite. My vote goes to The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. I'm still not certain why it's banned but I've read that it is sexist. I think it's one of those that fits in point of view as you can look at the story as one of ultimate giving or one of selfishly taking. Optimist that I am, I have always seen it as a story of giving. It was my choice to read it and am glad I live in a country where I can.