Library staff and Board Vice Chair Keith Norris pose with some copies of Fifty Shades of Grey, a novel that will be part of a special Scandalous Book Club taking place during Freedom to Read Week. – Stephen Dafoe Photo
by Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Although the Morinville Community Library has become known for being 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, running Feb. 24 to Mar. 1, 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.
“Freedom to Read Week represents, in my mind, the right that we hold to enact freedom of speech and expression,” said library staff member and Freedom ot Read Week organizer Ashley Janes. “Anti-censorship movements are important to continuously remind people of the right and why they should be aware of that right and exercise it and fight against book censorship and challenges.”
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 some people at the time of the book’s publication and the book was banned.
But attempts at literary censorship continue to the present day, even in Canada. Some Ontario parents challenged Timothy Findley’s book The Wars in 2011 for depictions of violence and sex, particularly its inclusion of 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 – and most recently the children’s book And Tango Makes Three has come under fire.
“One that has consistently been on it is Tango Makes Three, which is a children’s book about two male penguins who adopt an egg,” Janes said. “There’s obvious social commentary going on there, but it always surprises me when a little kid’s book can make the top banned books.”
Peep show coming to the library
In 2011, the Morinville Community Library took the cheesecake imagery Rolling Stone sometimes uses to sell magazines 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. The library held smaller scale events in 2012 and 2013, but the library will once again push the boundaries a bit this year with a few offerings, including a peep show, a scandalous book club, and a brown-bagged book borrowing program. “We’re doing a banned book peep show so people can come and have a look at classically banned books from the past 100 years or so,” Janes said, adding the library’s main showcase window will be blocked out save for several peep holes for patrons and visitors to look through at the hidden display.” Additionally, books on the shelves that have been challenged will have an identifying insert for those interested in knowing ahead of time what challenged book they will read.
Another boundary pushing offering during the week is what the library is calling their most scandalous book club to date, an evening’s discussion and dissection of E.L. James’ erotic romance novel Fifty Shades of Grey, the first in a trilogy that has been challenged for its inclusion of bondage and sadomasochism. “I like the idea of doing a book club on this because I like anything that incites really polar reactions from people,” Janes said. “It is a book people really really love and really really hate. It’s getting them all in a room to discuss it.” Janes said interest in the scandalous book club has been largely positive thus far. The event takes place Feb. 27 at 6:30 p.m. and is open to patrons 18 and older.
Those interested in checking out other banned books can participate in the book blind date. Books will be wrapped up with information inserts about why the book was banned. Patrons will then sign out one of the books; not knowing what it is until they unwrap the title.
For more information visit the Morinville Community Library or visit them online at morinvillelibrary.ca.