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Library Celebrates Open Access to Books

See the library's banned book display through Sept. 14.

Libraries across America this week are observing Banned Book Week, in which the free and open access to information is celebrated. The Moorpark City Library is no exception.

The library currently has a display of some of the books that have been challenged or banned as recently as this year. It also has been sharing banned book trivia on its Facebook page all week.

Though people sometimes think of book banning as a thing of the past, books are still challenged in libraries, schools and other institutions across the country. The primary objections to the challenged books, according to the American Library Association (ALA), are that they contain sex, profanity and racism. It’s these types of objections that put classics many would consider part of the literary canon on modern day lists of books that have recently been removed from library shelves or classrooms.

Specifically, appearing on the ALA’s top 10 banned or challenged book list for 2012 are Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World—for insensitivity, nudity, racism, religious viewpoints and being sexually explicit—and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird—for its offensive language and racism (nevermind that Lee used the book to expose racism and, one might go so far as to say, even ridicule racists).

Other works making the top ten list include the books of the New York Times best-selling trilogy The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins because they were seen by some as being anti-ethnic, anti-family, insensitive, violent, having offensive language and having satanic or occult themes.

Heather Cousin, Moorpark City librarian, said banned or challenged books haven't been a problem here, though. Despite having a system in place to deal with it, in the five years the library's been a city library, material has been challenged a total of three or four times, she said.

"We have a very tolerant community and we have designed the collection to appeal to a broad range of individuals," Cousin said. "If material is there, it's there because it needs to be there."

The staff at the Moorpark Library gets a little help in determining what makes the cut. First, the library follows the ALA's code of ethics, part of which says, "We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources."

Also, in selecting which books to include in the library’s inventory, the librarians rely on professional reviews.

"As a matter of collection development, it's not so much the subject matter as the quality," Cousin said. "Subject matter has never been the red flag for me. It's got be worth our money and our time."

Among books that have been banned throughout the years, Moorpark's librarians have a few favorites. Cousin's favorite is John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath.

"It's been banned for political reasons and for the ending," she said.

The book ends with a woman saving a starving man's life by breast feeding him.

Teen Librarian Gina Hernandez said she favors George Orwell's Animal Farm, partly because of the reason it was banned; it wasn't the politics alone.

"It was banned partly because animals and people were perceived to be on the same level," she explained.

The notion might sound silly to some, but books are challenged for even less.

A mother of an elementary school student had children’s book The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby by George Beard and Harold Hutchins banned at the school because it contained the phrase “poo poo head.”

Another, And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, is based on a true story about two penguins at New York’s Central Park Zoo who took care of an egg until it hatched. The problem? The penguins in the book—as in real life—were both male. The book not only made the ALA’s top ten banned list from 2006 to 2010, but was number one, except for in 2009, when it took the number two spot.

All of the above books are available at the library.

The Moorpark Library’s display of banned books will remain up through Oct. 14.

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