ESCANABA, Mich. (WZMQ) – According to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, 2,571 books and other materials were challenged in 2022, leading some libraries across the country to ban certain books.
October 1 – 7 is Banned Books Week. In recognition, the Escanaba Public Library is getting those books into readers’ hands.
“Banned Books Week has been observed by libraries, booksellers, readers, and writers for over 40 years,” said Carolyn Stacey, director of the Escanaba Public Library. “It’s an attempt to bring some attention and awareness to efforts to restrict or remove materials from public libraries, and it’s also a time where we can each celebrate our right to read.”
The Escanaba Public Library has dozens of books on display that have been banned or challenged throughout the decades. Stacey says people challenge these books for a variety of reasons.
“It tends to come in waves,” she said. “The last several years, we’re really seeing objections based on race, gender, and sexuality. We do have some materials on the table that explain what the objection to the item was and what the ultimate result was, what happened to that book.”
Titles include Bridge to Terabithia, The Catcher in the Rye, and Harry Potter.
“You’ll see a lot of materials intended for children that are often banned because people are trying to protect children from things that are difficult or sensitive,” Stacey said.
In her years at the Escanaba Public Library, Stacey has seen complaints from time to time, but no formal book challenges. She says the library always welcomes input from patrons.
“Public libraries collect a variety of materials because we serve a variety of people in our communities, so our collection should reflect that,” said Stacey. “We don’t expect that everybody’s going to agree with everything that’s in the library—everybody can find something that’s objectionable or doesn’t suit their viewpoints—but we provide the alternatives and readers make the choices.”
The Escanaba Public Library has policies for managing its collection. The criteria for selecting books and other materials involve community interest, credibility, availability, and other standards.
“I would really encourage anybody who has an interest in how libraries manage their collections to take a look at that document,” Stacey said. “There’s also a formal process for citizens who wish to ask us to reconsider a decision. We welcome that involvement.”
The theme of this year’s Banned Books Week is “Let Freedom Read,” highlighting the opportunity libraries have to provide access to all books for all readers.
“There is always an attempt out there at censorship,” Stacey said. “Public libraries have always had the role of upholding the individual’s right to choose the information and ideas that they want to explore. Even if that information is considered offensive or unacceptable by somebody else, that right is a constitutional right that each one of us has.”
The Escanaba Public Library’s collection of banned and challenged books will remain on display by the front desk through the end of the week. To learn more about the Escanaba Public Library, click here.