Written by Jimmie Epling   

A Truly Great Library Contains... 

By Jimmie Epling

…something to offend everyone.  What?  Not what you expected to hear?  The truth is all four locations of the Darlington County Library System are guaranteed to have something in them that will offend you or someone else.  Should you be concerned about this?  Absolutely not!  A great public library gives all the members of its community the opportunity and freedom to read or watch anything of his or her own choice.  The Library is about giving you choices.  

Giving you choices at the Library can be a challenge!  From time to time, libraries receive requests to remove books and other materials from the shelves because an individual or group objects to its content.  In recognition of these challenges, every year about this time, libraries across the nation highlight those books and other materials that are on library shelves that have been challenged or banned in the past year.  This year’s “Banned Books Week” is September 27th through October 3rd.            

What has surprised many is that libraries are very often bastions of anticensorship sentiment.  Public libraries are a welcoming place with something for everyone.  They are a place where all people can visit and read freely.  Freedom of choice and expression is a cornerstone of our nation.  A library is often the only place in a community where you will find thoughts and opinions that might be considered by many in the community to be unorthodox or unpopular.  It is important for the community that the Library makes all types of viewpoints and writings available to all who wish to read them.  The quiet librarians you see behind the desk at the Library when you drop by can become formidable adversaries to anyone who attempts to ban a book.

When librarians speak of a challenge to something in a library, we mean an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group.   The reason a challenge is taken seriously is that it does not simply involve a person expressing a point of view.  It is an attempt to restrict or, more often, to remove material from a library.  The result could be you no longer have free access to the materials at the library.  As such, we believe each challenge represents a threat to the freedom of speech and choice.  Each banned item is an erosion of your freedom to make your own choices in what you read, learn, and believe.

So what does a book need to have to be targeted for a challenge?  Any one, or combination, of the following reasons can make a book the target for a challenge.

·         Any Theme Judged Unsuitable for a Particular Age Group.  This reason always includes one or more of the other nine reasons.  Protecting young children who may not be able to understand the ideas and concepts presented in the book is the motivation.  “The Giver,” “”The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” “The Kite Runner”, and “Catcher in the Rye” fall into this category.  

·         Alternative Lifestyles.  Books that do not depict a conventional way of life, values, or personal conduct, such as can be found in “The Outsiders,” “Brave New World,” or “Go Ask Alice” can bring on a challenge.  

·         Negativity.  Books, especially those written for young adults and children, that are sad, depressing, and do not end happily are sometimes challenged.  

·         Profanity.  The profanity found in “The Great Gatsby” and “As I Lay Dying” sparked a challenge for these books.  

·         Racial Themes.  Books like “To Kill a Mockingbird” or “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” explore race, depict racism directed at various groups of people, or use language in ways deemed offensive.  

·         Sex.  A hot button for challenges, the sexual content of a book is not limited to graphic depictions, but also explicit dialog.  This is the most often used reason to challenge a book.   

·         Unpopular Political Views.  The “Communist Manifesto,” Mao’s “Little Red Book,” and other political works have been challenged.  Because of the wealth of memoirs and political books published by candidates, it is sometimes difficult to afford them all and the challenge is more often why the Library doesn’t have a particular politician’s book. 

·         Unpopular Religious Views.  “The Da Vinci Code” and “The Satanic Verses” have both been challenged by believers due to their respective depictions of Christianity and Islam.    

·         Violence.  Novels like “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Lord of the Flies” were targeted due to their violent content. 

·WWitchcraft.  The Harry Potter books and the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy are examples of books challenged because they depict magic and witchcraft, which those who challenge such materials note, is inherently evil.

The American Library Association annually compiles a list of the top 10 challenged and banned books (http://www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/top10).  Those topping the 2014 list were challenged for one or more of the reasons cited above.  The list indicates the owning branch by its initial.

1) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie  DHL
2)  Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi 
3)  And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell  DH
4)  The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison  HLS
5)  It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris  DHL
6)  Saga by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples
7)  The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini  DHLS
8)  The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky  DHL
9)  A Stolen Life Jaycee Dugard  DHLS
10)  Drama by Raina Telgemeier

In recognition of Banned Books Week, each location of the Library will show a movie based on a banned book.   Society Hill will show “Sophie’s Choice” on Monday, September 28th.  Lamar will show “1984” on Tuesday, September 29th.  Hartsville will show “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” on Wednesday, September 30th.  Darlington will show “Carrie” on Thursday, October 1st.  Check the Darlington County Library’s Facebook page for times or call the Library involved.

“Banning books gives us silence when we need speech,” wrote author Stephen Chbosky (the Perks of Being a Wallflower).  “It closes our ears when we need to listen.  It makes us blind when we need to see.”  At the Library, our goal is to give you free access to as many viewpoints and ideas as possible so that you can make your own informed choices in life.  That is why you can find so many challenged and banned books on the shelves waiting for you to read.  We strive to be a truly great library for Darlington County.  This is why “we have something to offend everyone!”

September 21, 2015         

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 29 December 2015 )