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Spencer library celebrates Banned Books Week

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Spencer Public Library director Malinda "Mandie" Roberts, reads in the "barrier" area. To bring awareness to the library patrons about Banned Books Week, the librarians will sit in the barricaded area and read books that have been banned or challenged. In addition, the library has set up a display of banned and challenged books.
(Photo by Kate Padilla) [Order this photo]
This week is Banned Books Week, and the Spencer Public Library is working hard to bring awareness to some of literature's more controversial titles.

At the forefront of their display is a chair, surrounded by caution tape. The librarians will sit in the chair and read periodically throughout the day. The sign on the barricade reads "This librarian is reading a banned or challenged book."

In addition to the chair, a display of banned books is set up for patrons to view, and a portrait area is set up for patrons to get their "mug shot" taken for reading banned books.

Banned Books Week began in 1982 and is sponsored by the American Library Association. When it began, the books that this week features truly were banned from libraries, schools, or towns. Now, however, the titles are largely referred to as "challenged."

"The fact that these books are more 'challenged' than 'banned' shows how society has progressed," said Malinda "Mandie" Roberts, director of the Spencer library.

Roberts highlights Mark Twain, a veteran of the "banned" list.

"He was the father of social media marketing," she said. "He didn't care what people thought of him."

"I understand why people challenge books," Roberts said. "However, I am a supporter of people's freedom to read, and I don't feel anyone should be limited."

She continued, "Libraries are in the business of information. We exist to promote freedom of thought. We have to present an unbiased picture; we have to have all of the information so that people can make their own opinions."

She laughed, "If we all had the same opinion, we'd be sheep."

One day into the week, and Roberts has already seen a response from the banned books display. While she was reading in the chair, several patrons approached her with questions regarding banned books.

Of the ALA's Top 100 books banned from 2000 to 2009, the majority of them are young adult books. The entire Harry Potter series tops the list, while books by Judy Blume, Katherine Patterson, Avi, and Dav Pilkey appear further down the list.

"I understand people want to protect their children," Roberts said, "but books are a safe way to expose them to real-life issues. First-time exposure in the real world is far more dangerous and has far worse consequences."

Roberts cites "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood as her favorite banned book, though also names "Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret" by Judy Blume.

Even with a safer means of exposure, Roberts advocates parents talking with their children about what they read.

"If young readers have an open dialog with their parents, they become confident readers," she said. "What they read, then, becomes less shocking."

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