by Stephen Dafoe
Although the Morinville Community Library is more than just books these days, the printed word is still its stock and trade. This week, the Library joins with libraries throughout the country 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.
“Freedom to Read Week is important because that’s when we celebrate being able to fight censorship,” said Public Services Librarian Alliah Krahn. “People will censor for all kinds of stuff. We have people hide books on sex. We have people tell us we shouldn’t buy books on gay people or about racism—that’s a huge one.
The Library believes it is essential 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 judgment.
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.
“Huckleberry Finn gets challenged a lot for period-typical racism,” Krahn said of the Mark Twain classic. “People need to know about that. Just recently they just changed the award name for the Laura Ingalls Wilder award because there was period-typical racism in the book [Little House on the Prairie]. That said, those books are all still on our shelves.”
Krahn said during Freedom to Read Week; the Library will have book lists of the staff’s favourite banned or challenged books.
“We have a couple of staff that are very passionate about what has gotten banned and what they loved,” Krahn said. “It can be kind of shocking—the randomness of the distribution of stuff that’s gotten banned.”
Attempts at literary censorship continue to the present day, even in Canada. Krahn said she does not see an increase in censorship these days.
“People are becoming aware that it’s probably not the best way to have a productive discussion by hiding information,” Krahn said. “A lot of our challenges these days come from people not wanting a specific book, being shelved with the kids’ books. That’s always a lot easier conversation to have than ‘Take this out of your library.'”
Freedom to Read Week continues nationally until Feb. 29