October 3, 2013

Banned Book Week, Thank A Librarian

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Last week was Banned Books Week. Have you read a banned book? Do you know that this week highlights books that have been challenged or banned and was launched in 1982? Yes, 1982 just 32 years ago, not the 1950's, as I originally thought. 

My research indicates Banned Books Week evolved because of a wavelike number of book challenges in public libraries, schools and even bookstores. Since 1982 over 11,300 books have been banned or challenged. Most challenges are from a small group of individuals who want to limit the public's ability to make up their own minds. Are you worried, yet?

The AmericanLibrary Association, provides information about the book challenges. One of the most alarming statements from the ALA website is "a challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. As such, they are a threat to freedom of speech and choice."

Last week, Turner Classic Movies ran a 1956 Bette Davis movie I had never seen before called "Storm Center". Click this link to see a movie clip from "Storm Center". The story is about Davis character, Alicia Hull, a widowed small town librarian, whose passion was introducing children to the joy of reading. The city council asks her to withdraw a book entitled, "The Communist Dream" from the library's collection. She initially agrees in order to get a children's library wing built, and then after consideration refuses to comply with their demand. She is fired and branded as a subversive and was somewhat shunned by her small town. After watching this movie, I discovered the screenplay writers, Daniel Taradash (also the director) and Elick Moll based their movie on a real librarian's experience. Miss Ruth Brown was dismissed from her position at the Bartlesville, Oklahoma Public Library and never reinstated in 1950. 

As Alicia Hull character states in the movie, "I couldn't remove a book because it has ideas you didn't like. Gentleman, you want me to take this book out of the library you ought to fight to keep it on the shelves."

A number of my friends are librarians and have a love for books, all books. I know that they, thankfully, have the heart of a "Ruth Brown" and "Alicia Hull". As writers, we need to remember that librarians put our books on the shelves. Often they defend our books if a challenge arises. So stop and thank a librarian today. 

Thank you librarians, everywhere.

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