Library Moments: Freedom To Read Week

Freedom to Read WeekBessie Sullivan, County Librarian: Hello, I’m Bessie Sullivan from the Haliburton County Public Library and this is library moments. Once a week some of us from the library will come and talk about books, upcoming events, or the services we offer at the library.

Today Sherrill Sherwood, Erin Kernohan-Berning and I will be talking about books that have come under protest for one reason or another.  This is in celebration of Freedom to Read Week which takes place from February 23rd- March 1st this year.

Freedom to Read Week is an annual event that encourages Canadians to think about and reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom, which is guaranteed them under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

waldo Sherrill Sherwood, Collections Development: Anyone who grew up in the 1990’s knows the meaning behind the question “Where’s Waldo?” The answer, though, might surprise you. That’s because you won’t find him in some public or school libraries in the United States.

Where’s Wally? (published in the United States and Canada as Where’s Waldo?) is a series of children’s books created by British illustrator Martin Handford. The books are made up of detailed illustrations of themed scenes in which the reader is challenged to find Waldo hidden somewhere in the mix. His characteristic red-and-white striped shirt, puff-ball hat, and glasses make him easier to recognize, but many illustrations contain “red herrings” to trick and further challenge the reader.

So why would a harmless series of funny illustrations be banned?

Apparently if you look closely enough, there’s a topless sunbather in one of the illustrated beach scenes. The offending breast in the book measures 1/16”.

As one reviewer puts it “some people have way too much free time on their hands.”

golden compass Erin Kernohan-Berning, Branch Services Librarian: It is surprising how often books are challenged without the challenger actually reading the offending material. Fantasy series aimed at children and young adults such as Harry Potter, His Dark Materials, and The Chronicles of Narnia have all been challenged on ideological grounds, often because a parent was told or had heard that the books were offensive. By challenging on those grounds, rather than having read the books and made that determination for themselves, the books sometimes never get a chance to stand on their own merit. Rather than being debated based on what the books are actually about, they are debated based on what a group of people believe they are about. This is unfortunate as often upon reading, these books are far less threatening and far more enriching than they are made out to be. It is the right of the reader, or the parents of young readers, to evaluate these works for themselves and decide if they still don’t like them.

mad medicineBessie: In Alberta in 2010, the Stoney Nakoda First Nation asked the Judicial Council of Alberta to ban the book Bad Medicine: A Judge’s Struggle for Justice in a First Nations Community

By John Reilly. David Bearspaw, a chief of the Stoney Nakodas, also filed a libel suit against the book’s author, a semi-retired judge who had served in Alberta’s courts for more than 30 years.

The Stoney Nakoda leaders objected to the negative portrayal of their government of the reserve.  Ironically, Judge Reilly provides an enlightening and timely perspective. He shows us why harsher punishments for offenders don’t necessarily make our societies safer, why the white justice system is failing First Nations communities,  and why jail time is not the cure-all answer some think it to be.  What upset the Stoney Nakodas was that Reilly also talked about how, in his opinion, corruption continues to plague tribal leadership.  In 2011, the Judicial Council of Alberta found merit in the Stoney Nakodas’ complaint and said that Reilly should resign from the bench if he wanted to make political statements, however, no book banning ever occurred.

Part of the mandate of a public library is to provide you with as many view points as possible.  It is your right and freedom not to agree with all of them.  Thank you for tuning in here on 100.9 Canoe FM.

*Originally aired on 100.9 CANOE FM, February 23rd – March 1, 2014.

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