Exercising the right to read

By on October 5, 2005

Stepping inside the Miller Memorial Central Library on Dixwell Ave. in Hamden this past week, a display featuring infamous books such as “The
Catcher in the Rye,” “The Color Purple” and “Huckleberry Finn” is immediately noticed. Like thousands of libraries and bookstores around the nation, Hamden’s public libraries were honoring the freedom to read during Banned Book Week.

“The main reason for the Banned Book Week is to rein-force the First Amendment and the right to read what you want to read,” said Robert
Gualtieri, the library director.

“Our public libraries are a resource for all types of materials for adults, teens and chil-dren. The display is to educate the public on what titles
have been banned or challenged over the years.”

The annual event, which took place this year from Sept. 24 through Oct. 1, has been reminding Americans of their democratic freedom since

It demonstrates how throughout history, many books were challenged or
banned in an attempt to protect children from material that featured sexual behavior, offensive language, violence or religious views.

Today, controversial books are protected by the Library Bill of Rights which states that “librarians and governing bodies should maintain that parents-and only parents have the right and the responsibilityto restrict the access of their children-and only their children-to library resources.”

In other words, censorship by librarians violates the First Amendment and their responsibility to provide information.

Every year, the American Library Association (ALA), one of the sponsors of Banned Book Week, compiles a list of the 100 most frequently challenged books.

The association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom gathers data for the list from newspapers or submitted reports of the Challenge Database Form. Each challenge is a formal complaint filed by a library or school, requesting that materials be removed because of content. In 2004, the office accumulated 547 challenges, with Robert Cormier’s “The Chocolate War” topping the list.

“Not every book is right for every person, but providing a wide range of reading choices is vital for learning, exploration and imagination. The abilities to read, speak, think and express ourselves freely are core American values,” said Carol Brey-Casiano, ALA president.

According to Gualtieri, Hamden’s libraries participate in Banned Book Week annually and put out a display of challenged books to give the
public a chance to “peruse titles that have been censored.”

The display, he said, is a merchandising technique because without it, people wouldn’t necessarily notice these influential books on the shelf.

For more information on book challenges and censorship, visit www.ala.org/books.com.


About Heather Cerrato