Wendy Reuer, Published September 24 2012
Surprises on banned books list
While books like “Fifty Shades of Grey” have come under recent fire because of their overt sexual nature, children’s books such as “Alice in Wonderland” or the internationally respected “Diary of Anne Frank” are often a surprise to find them on banned lists.
Next week, Sept. 30 through Oct. 6, the American Library Association will celebrate “Banned Book Week,” a week dedicated to non-censorship and the anniversary of the freedom to read.
“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” was banned in China in the 1930s because inside animals talked, and some Chinese believed that simply should not happen.
“The Diary of Anne Frank” has taken fire for a number of reasons such as what some believed were violent and sexual excerpts that were inappropriate.
According to ALA representatives, its Office for Intellectual Freedom received 326 reports of attempts to remove or restrict materials from school curricula or libraries in 2011.
In this area, it’s rare for a book to be outright banned from public libraries but the Fargo Public, Moorhead branch of the Lake Agassiz Regional Library and West Fargo Libraries all have forms on which patrons can ask books be reconsidered.
“I can tell you we do have people that come into the library and they do challenge things we have on our shelf,” said Liz Lynch, supervisor at the Moorhead Library.
Lynch said the requests come infrequently but none have resulted in a book being pulled from the shelf.
“As far as I know we’ve never actually removed an item from our collection,” Lynch said.
Most often, a book may be reclassified from the juvenile category to the adult section.
Helen Goodin, the collection development librarian for the Lake Agassiz Regional Libraries said controversy is generally not a factor if library customers are requesting the books.
“We are really customer driven, so we look at what our customers ask for,” she said. Goodin, who is in charge of purchasing all the materials for the regional library system said factors such as cost and availability factor more than content.
“We haven’t really said no we won’t buy that because of a reviewer,” Goodin said. “If we also have a huge public interest, it tells us this is what our readers want, so we go there.”
Aside from the “Fifty Shades of Grey” series, Goodin said few books have caused a stir in recent years. The library is currently in the process of requiring a book written by Anne Rice under the name A. N. Roquelaure, which retools the “Sleeping Beauty” theme – in a more erotic way.
The re-release of the book was inspired by the public’s infatuation with “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
“Those are considered kind of risqué, and they have regenerated some interest,” Goodin said. “People didn’t like graphic novels when they first came out because some of the art work is very unusual, but that has become really mainstream now.”