Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

September 27, 2012

The right to read

TAHLEQUAH — If you were a student visiting the Eldon, Mo., library in 1978 and needed to look up a word in the dictionary, you’d have been out of luck.

The American Heritage dictionary was banned from the Eldon library in 1969 and 1978 because of 39 “objectionable words.”

The same was true in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1987 for including the slang definition for the word “balls.”

September 30 through Oct. 6 is Banned Books Week, and libraries and organizations across the country are celebrating the right to read, including Tahlequah Public Library and Tahlequah Middle School Library.

Brenda Maddan, media specialist at Tahlequah Middle School, said during her 10-year tenure she’s not been asked to remove a book from the school’s library shelves.

“There are several lists out of there of banned and challenged books,” said Maddan. “We have not been presented with any challenges, although we do have a process in place for parents and students to do so. If someone objects to a title, we have a form here at the library and online they can fill out and turn in.”

According to Tahlequah Public Schools policy, once a form is filled out challenging a title, a decision about its removal is made following recommendations from a school committee, administration, the school board and the media center coordinator.

Tahlequah Public Library staffer Cherokee Kimple said the American Library Association has a full listing of books that have been challenged or banned by libraries across the country.

“We’ve only had two challenges in the 10 years I’ve been here,” said Kimple. “The titles were ‘Rainbow Boys’ and ‘10,000 Dresses.’”

Kimple said TPL also has a process for challenging titles, which includes filling out a form at the circulation desk.

“Once we receive the request, the entire staff reads the book being challenged,” said Kimple.

“Then we decide, collectively, if it should be pulled. We have never pulled a book from our shelves, though. If the person challenging the title isn’t satisfied with our decision, they can appeal it to the Eastern Oklahoma District Library System. So far, though, the people challenging titles have been satisfied with our decision.”

The Tahlequah Public Library has a display in its lobby featuring yellow crime tape with the words “enter if you dare” draped over a backboard proclaiming next week Banned Books Week. The display also includes a number of books wrapped in brown paper, revealing only their titles and authors. Titles making the banned book lists  include “The Great Gatsby,” “A Farewell to Arms,” “The Lord of the Flies,” and “The Grapes of Wrath.” Many are considered classics by educators, if not required reading for some classes.

“Most people who stop by this display and tell us they’ve read at least one of the books; some are simply shocked the titles were ever challenged,” said Kimple. “They are genuinely offended a book they love would be challenged. Did you know the dictionary has made the list? So has the Bible.”

Maddan said TMS does little to recognize Banned Book Week, as it historically falls during the school’s annual book fair.

“We are passing out bookmarks that say ‘join the banned, protect your right to read,’ during the book fair,” said Maddan. “But mostly, we’re excited about the annual book fair, and this year it’s going to be especially exciting.”

According to Maddan, last year TMS won the national book fair award. As a result, Roland Smith, best-selling author of young adult fiction, will make an appearance at this year’s fair to present the library with a $2,000 check.

Smith is the author of “Peak,” the “Storm Runner” series and “Shatterproof,” which Maddan said are “wildly popular” among her students.

“It’s a huge deal to have him here, and the kids are really excited,” said Maddan.

Maddan goes all out when it comes to drawing youth in for the fair, featuring a different theme each year.

“This year’s theme is ‘All-Star Readers,’ and we’ve adopted a Hollywood flair,” said Maddan.


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