Freedom to Read Week recognizes the fight against censorship

By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – Although the Morinville Community Library is more than just books these days, the printed word is still its stock and trade. Next week the library will be joining with libraries throughout the nation in defending intellectual freedom and the right to curl up with a good book, no matter what ideas and concepts those books may contain.

The annual Freedom to Read Week is an opportunity for Canadians to ponder the notion of intellectual freedom; something guaranteed each citizen under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is a right of particular importance to librarians.

“Censorship in books has been present for a long, long time, if not forever,” said Morinville Community Library Manager Isabelle Cramp. “Books can be challenging with their content. Some people may not agree with what is in some of the books and – for some people – that means trying to ban them so no one else can have access to them. For libraries, this is a fight that we’ve been fighting pretty much forever as well. Libraries are all about providing, to everyone, access to information, and we don’t take a stand on whatever that information is. It is up to whoever reads the information to decide whether it is something they want to accept or not.”
Cramp said it is important for the public to know libraries are a place where they will always be able to come to access the information they are looking for without fear of judgement.

Over the years, books as benign as Little Red Riding Hood and Little House on the Prairie have been banned outright or challenged in different places. When Little Red Riding Hood was first published, the cover depicted a bottle of wine in Red Riding Hood’s basket. That was something that did not sit well with people.

But attempts at literary censorship continue to the present day, even in Canada. Timothy Findley’s The Wars was challenged by some Ontario parents in 2011 for depictions of violence and sex, particularly homosexuality. Other modern challenged publications have included J. K Rowling’s Harry Potter series and Rolling Stone magazine – the former for its ties to sorcery, the latter for objectionable cover images.
In 2011, the library took the cheesecake imagery Rolling Stone sometimes uses to sell magazine and applied it to their own purposes. Using a model in pinup attire, the Library went full out with a We Read Banned Books campaign.
Reduced space in the Parish Hall forced the library to tone down their program last year, but those who recognized the importance of the freedom to read were rewarded for their efforts with some prizes.

Cramp said the library will be running another contest this year to identify books that have been banned in the past. Those who take out a banned book between Feb. 25 and Mar. 2 will have their name entered into a draw.
Additionally, the Library will make use of one of its display cases to highlight books that have been banned or challenged over the years. They will also be producing a mock scandal newspaper to have a little fun telling the story about how some seemingly innocent books came to be challenged or banned.

Freedom to Read Week runs nationally from Feb. 24 to Mar. 2.

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