ONTARIO — This week is Banned Books Week in public libraries across the United States, an annual event celebrating the freedom to read.
Ontario Community Library is celebrating the event this week in a rather simple way: wearable buttons provided by the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon that have printed on them the following declaration: “I read banned books.”
The library also has a display hanging just inside the entrance promoting the event, with titles, such as “Gone With the Wind,” written by Margaret Mitchell in 1936 and banned for its depiction of ante and postbellum life in the South.
Banned materials vary, however, from place to place.
Local libraries are given latitude on which books they choose to ban. This means, a book banned in one library might not be banned in another, said Darlyne Johnson, director of the Ontario Community Library.
First, a challenge
Before a book can be banned, however, it must first be challenged. According to the American Library Association (ALA), a challenge is simply an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group.
At the Ontario Community Library, an individual or group can challenge a book’s placement on the shelves of the library by first filling out a form, Johnson said. This form outlines which book or books are being challenged and for what reason. Johnson then takes the filled out form to the Ontario Community Library’s Library Board, where the group votes yes or no to ban it.
Johnson, like other librarians, booksellers and publishers, supports “being able to read what you want to read,” she said.
She was joined in her opinion by Joyce McCurdy, assistant library director.
“If you don’t like the book, then just don’t read it,” McCurdy added.
At the same time, however, Johnson acknowledged that not everyone has the same values.
“It’s really hard because everyone is raised differently,” she said.
Ontario Community Library has never had to ban a book, but about 10 years ago, the genre of Western books, with none in particular being singled out, were challenged for being too graphic. The Library Board at the time, voted not to ban the genre from the library.
Every year since 1990, the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom has collected data on the most challenged books of the year. Although it hasn’t compiled a list for 2017, it did so for 2016.
“This One Summer,” written by Mariko Tamaki, a young adult graphic novel, was restricted, relocated from the library it was housed, and banned in 2016 because it included LGBT characters, drug use, and profanity. The next two most challenged in 2016 were “Drama,” by Raina Telgemeier, and “George,” by Alex Gino.