F. Scott Fitzgerald, J.D. Salinger, Harper Lee, Alice Walker, George Orwell, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, James Joyce. These authors, along with many others, share a heavy burden. They have all written books that have been banned or challenged by schools, institutions and individuals for various reasons.
Delta County Libraries strives to bring attention to these authors and their books during Banned Books Week, Sept. 25-Oct. 1. Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Libraries, authors, teachers, publishers and other supporters come together to highlight the value of free and open access to information, no matter how unorthodox or unpopular the ideas may be.
"Libraries must be aware of censorship and promote the value of including banned or challenged books in their collections," Lea Hart, district director of Delta County Libraries, stated. "The objective is not to imply that all patrons should read banned books but to stress the importance of having the materials available for those who may choose to read them."
And there are vast numbers of books that are challenged. According to the American Library Association website, "A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others." Open access to information is not a guarantee and library patrons might be surprised at the numbers and titles of books that appear on the various lists of challenged books.
Books for children and youth are frequent targets of censorship. There are currently over 140 frequently challenged children's books listed on the American Library Association's website, including Shel Silverstein's "A Light in the Attic" and Roald Dahl's "James and the Giant Peach." The young adult list is even longer, including over 250 banned or challenged books like "Lord of the Flies" by William Golding and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain.
Leah Morris, collections and systems administrator for Delta County Libraries, has to consider these books when making decisions about each libraries collections. "When purchasing for the libraries, we need to include materials on a wide range of topics and, inevitably, there will be items that do not appeal to the beliefs or values of all of our patrons. Such materials are not intended to force a particular viewpoint on anyone; instead, we simply ask that our users select materials that appeal to them without preventing others from having access to a diverse and comprehensive collection."
If you are a patron that would like to show your support during Banned Books Week, you can participate by visiting the Delta Library on Sept. 28-29 during library hours to get your "mug shot" taken with a banned book. Or, just stop in at any of the libraries in Delta County and check out a banned book.
A collaborative effort between the Delta County Sheriff's Office and municipal law enforcement agencies throughout Delta County has resulted in a proposal for a 1 percent sales tax increase to fund public safety. A PowerPoint presentation titled "Back the Badge" is starting to make the rounds at city/town council meetings, service club luncheons and other events.