What do Little House on the Prairie, Of Mice and Men, and The Handmaid’s Tale all have in common? Apart from being excellent stories, they are titles that have been challenged by Canadians. This week libraries across the country are shedding light on the hazards of book banning by promoting these and many works.
Freedom to Read Week runs until Feb. 26. Isabelle Cramp, the manager of the Morinville Public Library, has a special theme that she’s using to encourage patrons to think about while they check out their titles: We Read Banned Books.
“As librarians, we always take a non-biased position on any book that is in the library. Our job is to present all opinions in the community. We can’t just bring in material that covers only one side of the story; we have to cover both sides of the story,” she stated.
“That’s where librarians as a whole profession stand on Freedom to Read Week, it’s freedom of information.”
Freedom of speech is as important here as it is in any country with civil unrest and controlling governments. Last year alone, the Canadian Library Association learned of more than 70 challenges to books, magazines, periodicals and other resources, including DVDs and even library policies.
While the Morinville library hasn’t removed any titles from circulation staff do get occasional complaints. Sometimes titles are stopped at the border before they can even reach Canadian bookshelves.
“We do recognize the fact that some of the books will offend some portion of the population,” Cramp said.
The library’s board has a formal complaint process, usually resulting in a warning sticker being placed on items of concern. She could only think of one instance in the last decade where a children’s book was actually challenged because of language. That title stayed on the shelf in the long run.
Otherwise, Cramp has only removed books because they contained non-factual information.
“It’s not our job to give out false information or information that is not correct.”
For all other cases, she hopes that people will keep their minds open and be reasonable when visiting the library.
Heather Dolman, public services manager at the St. Albert Public Library, says her experience has been similar but offers an alternative solution.
“It’s up to the people. If they don’t like it, they don’t have to read it. Put it back.”
To learn more about censorship in general or how to support this program, please visit www.freedomtoread.ca.
The Morinville Public Library is located at 10119 100 Ave. Please call 780-939-3292 or visit www.morinvillelibrary.ca.
The St. Albert Public Library is located at 5 St. Anne St. in St. Albert Place. Please call 780-459-1530 or visit www.sapl.ab.ca.