October Director's Dish

Gray clouds and cool breezes have already begun sweeping in and through Port Clinton with a sudden reminder that, yes, Fall is here. Although many of the leaves haven’t turned colors, gold and orange and red I hope, it’s only a matter of time before most of us will be indoors more (with movies and books, perhaps?) than outdoors. Knowing that, I’d like to focus my attention on books and movies, and really any other library materials, and the topic of censorship, specifically Banned Books Week.

Banned Books Week is an annual recognition and celebration of banned books that usually falls around September or October. Although this year’s event already occurred (September 25 through October 1) it set an appetizing table for this month’s Dish. Supported by a variety of national organizations, some that include the American Library Association and the Freedom to Read Foundation, this event’s purpose is to increase awareness of censorship, the importance of said banned books, and the choice to read. Started in 1982, this event has increased in popularity and perhaps even importance as public libraries continue to provide, or strive to provide, balanced collections with a variety of topics, viewpoints, and opinions.

Whether on the American Library Association’s website (www.ala.org) or via the particular Banned Book Week’s portal (www.bannedbooksweek.org), you can find information that provides context about the event and its importance. For instance, a website visitor can peruse ‘most challenged’ book lists from particular years that may include more recent titles as well as western classics: ‘The Hunger Games’ by Suzanne Collins, ‘Huckleberry Finn’ by Mark Twain, and ‘Captain Underpants’ by Dav Pilkey offer a glimpse into the wide range of literature often challenged year-to-year. Some titles may appear in multiple years: ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, by Harper Lee, although written several generations ago, still appears in the top ten list, from year-to-year, frequently. The methodology used to determine which titles receive most challenges can be found here: http://www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/top10.

ALA’s and ‘Banned Books Week’ websites both include additional information about other forms of censorship, social media links connecting the public with specific public library activities, and such. One particularly engaging section includes information about the Library of Congress’s exhibit entitled ‘Banned Books that Shaped America’. According to the LOC, these books “have had a profound effect on American Life”. Should you wish to peruse this list, you’ll likely notice American authors now (and perhaps then, too) considered literary luminaries whose work, indeed, faced scrutiny and was contested perhaps more than one would assume: Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ernest Hemingway, Upton Sinclair, John Steinbeck, and Margaret Mitchell are but only a few of those named.

If nothing else, Banned Books Week, and related literary-/censorship-minded events, brings attention to and increase awareness of the arts, whether literary, visual, or aural. The Ida Rupp Public Library strives to keep an open mind when purchasing and maintaining our collections so that such works have a place on the shelves, too.

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