Freedom to Read, celebrated each February 24 to March 2, reminds Canadians of their right to free expression and the freedom to read. It should provoke conversation about intellectual freedom. It prompts librarians to remember the values underpinning our profession and should impell us to work to advance intellectual freedom and fight censorship.
How did your library mark Freedom to Read?
Eye catching displays are easy to do but discouraging if you can’t keep a display stocked. Wrapping dummies in brown paper and identifying the title on the wrapper makes it easy to keep a display full. Most libraries don’t have all the books on the challenged lists so using a dummy is doubly effective. Books in brown paper have a way of encouraging conversation too! If the display is near staff desk, so much the better to get people guessing why a book was banned or challenged. We found people were unwrapping the dummies hoping to get more information and to take the book home.
Planning a book talk where patrons read and discuss challenged material is another excellent way to provoke discussion. Try a casual drop in book talk/discussion during the week where you have a selection of challenged titles to prompt discussion. Make some noise by setting up a speakers corner every lunch hour in your foyer where staff or patrons read from challenged or banned books. UBC planned a marathon reading of challenged books. Great idea!
Lets talk professionally about how we handle hot material or material which patrons have challenged. How do we uphold CLA’s statement that libraries should fulfill responsibility to intellectual freedom while recognizing the right of criticism by individuals and groups? It is a hard line to walk. What have you withdrawn on the basis of a complaint? Is it easy for patrons to find your invitation to reconsideration or do you bury it to dissuade all but the most determined?
Has material in your library been challenged online? Challenges are always somewhat upsetting but when posted to a Facebook page the prospect of going viral is alarming. Has your library got policies in place for this eventuality?
Intellectual freedom and the backbone to defend it is always part of readers advisory.