Tuesday, 25 September 2018 20:11

Richmond County Libraries Display Challenged Titles for Banned Books Week

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A display of the most challenged books of 2017 are displayed at Leath Memorial Library in Rockingham for Banned Books Week. A display of the most challenged books of 2017 are displayed at Leath Memorial Library in Rockingham for Banned Books Week. William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

“To Kill a Mockingbird.” “1984.” “Catcher in the Rye.” “Brave New World.” “The Lord of the Rings.”

What do all these books have in common?

Aside from being classic works of literature, they each have been challenged or banned for themes that some people find offensive in some way, according to the American Library Association.

Libraries in Richmond County and across America are celebrating Banned Books Week by prominently displaying copies of controversial titles.

“Every year, a list comes out of the top banned or challenged books,” said Shannon Hearne, supervisor of Leath Memorial Library in Rockingham. “And they might not necessarily be banned in locations but they’re all challenged … and it’s all for various reasons.”

Those reasons, according to the ALA, include: violence; being un-American; perpetuating sterotypes or racisim; having lesbian, bisexual, gay or transgender themes; foul language;  and occult references.

Promoting Banned Books Week, Hearne added, is to raise awareness about censorship and freedom of speech.

“It’s a good time to talk about the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment, because a lot of people don’t really know their rights,” Hearne said. “It’s a good way to bring that up and it can lead to more education about that.”

This year’s display features the top 10 challenged books of 2017, along with the reasons people oppose them and a megaphone promoting this year’s theme” Banning Books. Silencing Stories.”

"The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini is accused of promoting Islam and leading to terrorism and Sherman Alexie's "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" was challenged because of violence and sexual situations, according to the ALA.

“We try to do something different every year,” said Outreach Coordinator Deborah Knight.

In the past, Knight said they have placed banned books in a coffin or simulated burning them in a fire pit.

Knight said there have been instances where folks have objected to certain books.

“We’ve had patrons come up and say, ‘Hey, this book needs to be taken off the shelf because I’m offended’ … or ‘It’s about terrorism,’” Knight said. “Of course, we don’t censor anything, so we say, ‘We can’t remove it … I’m sorry.’”

Hearne said it doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. She recalled an incident when she was working at the library in Ellerbe when a patron came in protesting a romance book with sexually explicit scenes.

“She told me that it needed to be burned ...that it should be taken out of all the libraries … that public money shouldn’t pay for books like this, I mean she was very upset,” Hearne said. “Some people get pretty emotional about certain books that they think don’t need to be on library shelves.”

In addition to complaints, both Hearne and Knight said some patrons have marked out curse words in certain books with pencil and ink.

Hearne said when that happens, “We try to talk to them and tell them know you can’t do things like this and try to steer them towards books that they might be interested in that don’t have profanity.”

Knight said there was one patron who constantly marked through objectionable words in pencil and a past supervisor made her come in and erase what she had done.

“They can be charged, because it is damage to a book and you can’t circulate it like that,” Hearne said. 

Knight added that "Uncle Tom's Cabin" keeps disappearing. She said she isn't sure if someone is taking the copies to keep them off the shelves or for other reasons.

Working in libraries since she was 14 years old, Knight said she’s never seen any communitywide censorship efforts. 

Hearne remembers being a student when Judy Blume’s “Forever” was removed the school library because the librarian and teachers felt there were scenes that were too explicit.

For those who may may complain about a book’s content, Knight said she reminds them there is an entire library full of books: “There is something else in here you can read.”

“There’s a really good quote that says, ‘A really good public library has something in it to offend everyone,’” Hearne said. “We don’t want to offend people, but we want to have a wide range of (stories).”

“Because what offends me might not offend you,” Knight added. “But I read a little bit of everything … so I’m not offended very easily.”

Books that deal with modern social issues or feature words or themes that are now considered insensitive tend to receive the most calls for censorship, they said.

Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” has been on the list for years because of violence and the use of a racial slur.

“Then you have books like ‘13 Reasons Why,’ it’s challenged because of suicide, ‘I Am Jazz’ is a children’s book and there’s a transgender child,” said Hearne.

“But we have ‘em all,” Knight added. “And if we don’t have them, another branch in (the Sandhill Regional Library System) does.

“If you want to read a banned book, we’ll find it for you.”


Last modified on Tuesday, 25 September 2018 20:38