The American Library Association is on a mission this week. The ALA's mission, supported by public and institutional libraries in Vermont and around the nation, states that the freedom to choose and express one's opinions-even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or politically incorrect-are rights protected under the U.S. Constitution.
Banned Books Week, Sept. 25-Oct. 2, is a national celebration acknowledging American's freedom to read. The event was launched in 1982 in response to the number of what the ALA terms "challenges" to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than a thousand books have been challenged since 1982.
This year, a number of public and college libraries around the area are recognizing Banned Book Week. Many librarians are encouraging patrons to check out a banned or challenged book and read it.
According to David Clark, director of the Ilsley Public Library in Middlebury, Banned Books Week is a good time for libraries to elevate public awareness about the ever present threat of censorship.
"The Ilsley Library has set up a display of banned books," said Clark. "We posted yellow 'CAUTION' work-zone flagging tape across our banned books display; this will get the attention of our patrons. I think patrons will be very surprised at books that have been challenged or banned over the years."
Clark mentions banned books written by Mark Twain, James Joyce, Kurt Vonnegut, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Harper Lee, Vladmir Nabokov, Ernest Hemingway, Madonna Louise Ciccone, and others.
Books are often challenged based on sex (Madonna's 1992 coffee-table book "Sex"), race (Helen Bannerman's children's tale "The Story of Little Black Sambo"), religion (Nikos Kazantzaki's "The Last Temptation of Christ" and Salman Rushdie's "The Satanic Verses") and politics (Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451" and George Orwell's "1984").
"In just the past month, several library programs around Vermont have focused on reading the Koran, a religious text most recently threatened," Clark said.