Oliver Wendell Holmes Library Sponsors ‘Read Off’ in Honor of Banned Books Week

Ever borrowed a Harry Potter book from your school library? Well, believe it or not, you may be an exception. The Harry Potter series topped the list of the ALA’s – American Library Association – most banned books of 2002, released on the occasion of Banned Books Week. The Oliver Wendell Holmes Library will host continuous readings from banned books on Thursday night as part of the nationwide Banned Books Week sponsored by the ALA, and several other of journalists’, booksellers’ and publishers’ associations. This is the second year the OWHL will participate in Banned Books Week to develop awareness of challenged or banned books. The theme of Banned Books 2003 is “open your mind to a banned book,” and the OWHL staff plans to give the PA community the chance to do just that. 18 readers read from banned books from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. this Thursday evening in the OWHL lobby, an event that Director of the OWHL Elizabeth Tully brainstormed last year. Passages will be read from banned books chosen by the readers, including James and the Giant Peach, Of Mice and Men and Are You There, God, It’s Me Margaret. Research Librarian Timothy Sprattler, who organized PA’s participation in this year’s Banned Books Week, said that so many students and teachers volunteered to read, that the reading time was lowered from 15 to 10 minutes to make room for everyone who wanted to participate. The reading night was also moved to a weeknight to improve audience turn-out, as many day students did not make the trip back to campus for last year’s Sunday evening readings. “The ability to read, speak, think and express ourselves are core American values”, said Judith Krug, the Director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Liberty, “Now, more than ever, we must let freedom read,” she said. According to Judith Platt, the director of the Association of American Publishers’ Freedom to Read program, “not every book will be right for every reader, but the freedom to choose for ourselves from a full array of possibilities is a hard-won right that we must not take for granted in this country”. The most challenged books of 2002 were the Harry Potter series, because, according to complaints filed against them, they teach that “there is good magic” and that “rules are something to be ignored.” Other controversial books included The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a sex-education book titled It’s Perfectly Normal and Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, which tells of her experience as a raped child. Sexual explicitness, offensive language and material deemed unsuitable for the age group at which the book is targeted are the most volatile issues. Other widespread grounds for challenges are occult themes, homosexuality, violence, religious viewpoint, nudity, racism, anti-family views and sex-education. A challenge is defined as a formal written complaint filed against a library or school about a book’s content of appropriateness. Since 1990, the ALA has recorded 7,000 challenges, of which 515 were placed in 2002. It is estimated, however, that less than a quarter of all challenges are reported or recorded. 60 percent of the challenges are brought forth by parents, 15 percent by patrons and 9 percent by administrators.