Banned no more: Wilsonville library celebrating the right to read
Throughout September, the Wilsonville Public Library is celebrating the freedom to read by inviting patrons to take home a "mystery book" in honor of the national Banned Book Week Sept. 24-30. With their covers wrapped to conceal their true identities, the wrapped books have all been banned or challenged in the U.S. or abroad.
Annually, the American Library Association (ALA) collects hundreds of complaints and challenges to remove books from the shelves from libraries and schools around the country. Parents make up 42 percent of those who challenge books, followed by patrons at 31 percent. The remaining challenges comes from librarians, teachers, political and religious groups, the government and others.
For several years, the Wilsonville library has been selecting books from the top banned and challenged lists compiled annually by the ALA.
"For the month of September, we do a focus on educating people about banned and challenged books to bring up awareness about this form of censorship," said Andrea Erickson, program coordinator for the Wilsonville Public Library. "And by wrapping the books, you really can't judge a book by its cover."
Librarian Malia Laughton was first inspired to wrap the banned and challenged books after seeing other libraries hosting "blind-date with a book" programs where a book's cover would be wrapped and a "dating profile" loosely describing the book written on the outside. Instead of dating profiles, Laughton adds redaction information, including a loose summary, reason for why the book was challenged and if the book was in fact banned.
The library also has a selection of banned and challenged films. Erickson says that although many of the films were not banned in the U.S., they have been removed from the shelves of libraries in other countries. But Laughton found last year that of the 20 challenges reported to Oregon libraries, 13 of them were films.
"That's why we did the movie display this year to show that it's not just about books' censorship," Erickson said. Of the challenged books and films, approximately 10 percent are removed from the libraries' and schools' shelves, according to the ALA.
However, the ALA reports that as many as 10,766 challenges of titles are made each year but aren't submitted to the ALA for consideration to be added to its lists of challenged titles.
Erickson said that she's heard of some offended patrons taking matters into their own hands by taking books and films that they find offensive for whatever reason and hiding them throughout the library.
"We generally appreciate this approach rather than outright destroying them," Erickson said. "Generally when people want to challenge materials, it's well-intentioned and they're just trying to protect people from what they perceive as difficult ideas or content."
Erickson said that throughout the library there are a smattering of titles that staff and patrons alike may object to for various personal reasons, but she believes that titles have a right to be there for people to judge them for themselves.
"The intention may be good, but we're dealing with First Amendment issues about free speech," Erickson said. "We're trying to encourage people in that we all have opinions and viewpoints."