Celebrate freedom to read

From Charles Brown, director of libraries for the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County:

Are books like “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” or the “Harry Potter” series available at your public or school library? According to The American Library Association's (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), more than a book a day faces removal from public access in school and public libraries.

Challenges are defined as formal, written complaints filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness.

In many cases, it is only through public intervention that books are saved from confiscation or from being kept under lock and key.

This Sept. 27-Oct. 4, the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County encourages Americans to celebrate their freedom to read by reading a banned book during Banned Books Week.

This year will mark the 27th annual celebration of the freedom to read, and PLCMC will once again join thousands of libraries and bookstores nationwide in hosting exhibits, readings and special events.

I'd like to call your attention to two teen events that take place Saturday.

Matthews Library will host a discussion called “I'm with the Banned” at 6 p.m. Freedom Regional Library will present an open mic event, “Let Freedom Ring,” at 3 p.m. “Let Freedom Ring” participants will read an excerpt from a challenged or banned book, or read something of their own from the theme, “Free People Read Freely.”

Be sure to visit your neighborhood library, where you will find displays and featured books along with excited librarians eager to discuss what the freedom to read means to them.

ALA's OIF reports that there were 420 known attempts to remove books in 2007, and more than 9,600 attempts since the OIF began to electronically compile and publish information on book challenges in 1990.

Most book challenges reported to the OIF have been from schools (71 percent) and public libraries (24 percent).

Parents lodged 61 percent of the book challenges, followed by library patrons at 15 percent and administrators at 9 percent.

We must do all we can to make certain that would-be censors do not threaten the very basis of our democracy – the freedom to choose.

Because our society is so diverse, libraries and bookstores must continue to be dedicated to providing materials that reflect the interests of all of their patrons.

Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the ALA, the Association of American Publishers, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and the National Association of College Stores and is endorsed by the Library of Congress Center for the Book.