Banned Books Week: Garfield County libraries celebrate intellectual freedom
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
One of the main principles upon which public libraries are founded in the United States is the freedom to read. This freedom means not only the ability to choose what we read, but also the ability to select from a full array of possibilities. In order to protect this freedom, librarians must balance the interests of the community with the need to offer books and other materials that reflect the diversity of ideas and opinions in our world. While this may be fine in theory, it can sometimes be a point of contention in reality.
Every year, books are challenged at libraries, usually over content that someone finds offensive of inappropriate for the intended audience. For a second consecutive year, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell’s award-winning “And Tango Makes Three,” a children’s book about two male penguins caring for an orphaned egg, tops the list of American Library Association’s (ALA) 10 Most Challenged Books of 2007. Other challenged titles from 2007 include “The Chocolate War,” by Robert Cormier; “Olive’s Ocean,” by Kevin Henkes; “The Golden Compass,” by Philip Pullman; “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” by Mark Twain; and “The Color Purple,” by Alice Walker.
Observed since 1982, this annual ALA event reminds Americans not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted. This week celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion, even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular; and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. After all, intellectual freedom can exist only where these two essential conditions are met.
Later this month, the Garfield County Public Library District will be celebrating Banned Books Week at all six branches by displaying a variety of books that have been banned or challenged over the years. I encourage you to check one out and exercise your right to read freely.
Amelia Shelley is Garfield County Library District executive director.
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