Grand County libraries: Banned Books Week has relevance here in Grand County
September 26, 2008
The average Grand County resident may think it’s needless to commemorate Banned Books Week, set for Sept. 27 to Oct.4 @ Your Library.
After all, Grand County’s Libraries provide free and unfettered access to all types of information, whether it be books, films, musical tapes or information access through the Internet. Challenges to that access may seem unusual in a place like Grand County.
But the truth is that although Grand County hasn’t had a book officially challenged since 1999, there are many citizens who approach your library with their own agendas that, if followed, could truly crimp your freedom. But even more telling is the fact that it’s book challenges regionally and at the national level that could limit your unfettered freedom of access to information @ Your Library.
Books and other information are challenged frequently, and you’d be surprised to learn exactly what is challenged.
Banned Books Week has been observed since 1982. It was established to celebrate the freedom to read and to remind Americans not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted. As libraries have expanded to offer many different types of information, the importance of Banned Books Week has grown.
Maybe, perhaps, it could even be called “Banned Information Week,” recognizing the importance of Internet and other data base access.
Regardless, the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion is extremely important and is critical as a founding principal of our nation. This is true even if an opinion or book might be considered unorthodox or unpopular. Banned Book Week stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. This week strives to preserve true intellectual freedom.
In Grand County, the request to ban an item in 1999 was not concerning a book, said Grand County Library District Executive Director Mary Anne Wilcox. It was an audio book.
“Over the years there have been occasional requests to move a book from one section of the children’s collection to another,” Wilcox said. “We have also had requests for reconsideration of spine labels. One request was to keep all books with mystery spine labels shelved together, and all books with science fiction spine labels shelved together.”
She said another request for reconsideration concerned Christian fiction labels on books published by Christian publishers.
“The Board of Trustees considers these requests on a case-by-case basis. We did remove Christian spine labels,” she said. “That information is available in the library’s catalog and can be searched. We did not change the shelving of our fiction collection. Some children’s books have been left where they were and some have been moved to another section.”
Books that people have challenged on the national level are available in Grand County Libraries. Consider these challenged books and the reasons for the challenges. Many of these titles are available @ Your Library.
Some may expect that books are proposed for banning only because of sexual content and off-color language. But that’s not so. Some books are targeted for exactly the opposite reasons: such as being too religious.
The very freedom that allows books with a religious viewpoint to be available is the same freedom that allows books that are sexually explicit or have offensive language.
And that’s the way it should be.
As Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., in Texas v. Johnson, said most eloquently: “If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.”
If we are to continue to protect our First Amendment, we would do well to keep in mind these words of Noam Chomsky: “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.”
For more information on Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read, inquire @ Your Library in Grand County. Or contact the American Library Association/Office for Intellectual Freedom at (800) 545-2433, ext. 4220 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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