What does Mark Twain have in common with J.K. Rowling? Works by both authors have been banned at one time or another from American libraries. This week the Crestview Public Library observes Banned Books Week and celebrates our freedom to choose what to read.
CRESTVIEW — What do Mark Twain, James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, Jack London and Kurt Vonnegut have in common — besides being some of literature’s most luminous names? At one time or another, their works — today considered literary classics — have been banned from American libraries, Crestview Public Library staff members said.
A display at the library, erected Friday in observance of Banned Books Week, includes stacks of books that have been banned or challenged in American libraries. To draw attention to the perceived dangers of stifling Americans’ right to read, the books on display have been wrapped in yellow police “caution” tape.
An author doesn’t have to be one of the great names of literature for their works to be challenged, Crestview librarians said. Authors also include J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien, and titles even include the Bible.
“I think this display has more books than we’ve ever put on the banned books table,” librarian Annie Whitmore said as she and Marie Garcia put finishing touches on the display. “We are just creating an awareness of our opportunity to explore literature and how some people want to keep you from doing that.”
The American Library Association and its members have observed Banned Books Week for 30 years. This year’s theme, “fREADom,” features the Statue of Liberty holding aloft her torch and reading a book she holds in her left hand. The Crestview library is distributing bookmarks bearing the graphic.
Sometimes books are banned for religious reasons, library assistant Tracey McGann said.
“Most people object to some books on religious grounds, but then they’re the ones who most want religious freedom,” McGann said.
While books are rarely challenged at the Crestview library, in 2010, a local mother demanded “manga” graphic novels, well read among teen readers, be removed or secured. The woman said her son “lost his mind when he found this,” she said, exhibiting a mature version of manga the boy had stolen from the adult graphic novels section. Her challenge was unsuccessful.
“We like people to appreciate what living in America provides for them,” Whitmore said as she placed fREADom bookmarks around the display. “It allows people the opportunity to challenge books, but it also allows people the right to choose what they want to read.”
Visitors to the library might be surprised to see books like Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings,” George Orwell’s “1984” or poetry by American author Maya Angelou on the table.
Librarians hope patrons will be disturbed to know that at one time or another, other citizens tried to deprive them of the opportunity to check those and many other books out of the library.
“It allows people to realize what our First Amendment rights are,” Whitmore said.
The Banned Books Week display will be up at the Crestview Public Library through Oct. 6.