Wednesday, September 21, 2005

In observance of Celebrating the Freedom to Read Week, which has been set as the last week of September each year since 1982, the Fairmont State Libraries are organizing events to celebrate Banned Books Week from Sept. 24-Oct. 1.

As part of the observance, which has the theme "Read Banned Books: It's Your Freedom We're Talking About," the Ruth Ann Musick Library will sponsor a Free Speech celebration. The FS community and the general public are invited to stop by the main floor of the library from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 29, to share a few words about the value of free speech.

The Musick Library will also provide two locations for its weeklong Banned Books Read-Out. Those who would like to participate in silently reading a book in either the library or the Falcon Center may sign up for a time online at http://www2.fairmontstate.edu/library/bannedbooks. This year, the library will highlight one of the areas targeted for challenged books, and will provide a small display of books from its collection of gay and lesbian-themed books.

Often challenges to books are motivated by a desire to protect children from "inappropriate" sexual content or "offensive" language. Free Access to Libraries for Minors, an interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights (the American Library Association's basic policy concerning access to information) states that, "Librarians and governing bodies should maintain that parents' and only parents'have the right and the responsibility to restrict the access of their children' and only their children' to library resources." According to the ALA, censorship by librarians of constitutionally protected speech, whether for protection or for any other reason, violates the First Amendment.

ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom received a total of 547 challenges last year, up from 458 in 2003. Robert Cormier's "The Chocolate War" topped the 2004 list, drawing complaints from parents and other's concerned about the book's sexual content, offensive language, religious viewpoint and violence. This is the first year in several years that the Harry Potter books were not at the top of the list. Other books banned over the years include the Bible, books by Judy Blume, Maya Angelou and Stephen King.

"Banning books is an extreme disservice to our readers," said ALA President, Michael Gorman. "Not only does it hinder tolerance and acceptance, it also limits the information exchange that Americans hold dear."

In June 2005, the ALA Council passed a resolution affirming the inclusion of materials that reflect the diversity of our society and encouraging libraries to acquire and make available materials representative of all people.
For additional information on Banned Books Week, visit http://www.ala.org.