Library celebrating freedom to read

Published 4:34 pm Wednesday, September 24, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- To this day, some governments in the world control their people by determining what books they can and can't read.
In the past, some governments even burned unwanted books, such as the Nazi regime did in Germany during World War II.
That's why Darlene Jackson, a children's librarian at the Niles District Library, thinks Banned Book Week is important because it calls attention to the dangers of censorship and reminds people here of the freedoms they have to read what they want
Niles District Library is just one of thousands of bookstores and libraries across the country that celebrate the freedom to read this week.
Banned and challenged books on display at the library include the Bible, "Little Red Riding Hood," John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men," and Maya Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings."
The books on display are "hidden" in brown paper bags with stickers attached on the outside explaining why the books were controversial.
Also included in the display is a Library Bill of Rights, which, among other things, states that all libraries are a forum for information and ideas and the policies that guide the services libraries provide.
Although the books on display at the library are old and may no longer be banned here, people are continuing to file book challenges.
Since 1990, the American Library Association (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom has recorded more than 7,000 book challenges, including 515 in 2002.
Jackson said the most challenged books over the last five to seven years are probably the books in the Harry Potter series.
The ALA defines a "challenge" as a formal written complaint filed with a library or school about a book's content or appropriateness
Each challenge represents an effort to remove books from the school curricula or library shelves, and is the public's right to say that they think a book is unfit to be in the library, Jackson said.
When a challenge is filed, librarians have the responsibility to read and analyze the book against which the challenge is brought.
Most of the time, a challenge is brought forward by a concerned citizen, Jackson said.
Some concerned citizens, however, often fail to see the books they have issues with in a broader picture, she said.
Jackson said the library has to be a place where all members of the community can find books and the library can't ban a book just because a community member thinks it's inappropriate.
Books that are challenged today are often those regarded as politically incorrect or artistically offensive.
An example could be a children's book with drawings some parents might find inappropriate for their children to be exposed to.
Ultimately, parents are responsible for what their children read, Jackson said.
She wishes that instead of filing a challenge, or parents telling their child to stop reading certain books, parents should use controversial book to create a forum for discussion between them and their children.
Based on her own experience with her daughter, who read a lot when she grew up, Jackson said instead of telling her daughter to stop reading certain books, the two instead talked about the book.
Jackson said the two ended up talking about things she would never have dreamt about.
Nancy Campbell, executive director at Niles District Library, also thinks Banned Book Week is important.