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Rose State College celebrates freedom to read during Banned Books Week

By Darla Shelden

Contributing Writer


Celebrating America’s freedom to read, the Rose State College Learning Resources Center (LRC) is hosting activities for Banned Books Week, from Sept. 30 – Oct. 6. By focusing on efforts in America to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship.


“I think Justice Thurgood Marshall said it best when he stated, ‘Our whole constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men’s minds,’ said Ryan Kiesel, ACLU of Oklahoma Executive Director. “At a time in which the exchange of ideas is greater than ever before, we cannot allow complacency to weaken our resolve. We must be ever vigilant and suspicious of any attempt, overt or subtle, to censor the free exchange of ideas.”


All events held at the Learning Resources Center (LRC) for Banned Books Week are free and open to the public.


On Monday, Oct. 1 at 10:30 a.m. and Tuesday, Oct. 2, at noon, a “Read Out” was held in front of the LRC. The public was invited to bring a favorite banned book from which excerpts were shared.


On Wednesday, Oct. 3 from 2:30 – 3:30 p.m., in LRC room 109/110, a panel of Rose State College experts, moderated by Ben Fenwick, will include faculty members Dick Frost, Michael Grady, Jim Hochtritt, and John Wood will debate banning materials in libraries.


Books that have been banned or challenged in libraries will be on display in the LRC 1st floor during the entire Banned Book Week.


According to the American Library Association (ALA), in 2010, “Twilight,” by Stephenie Meyer, was one of the Association’s Top Ten Challenged books, frequently based on the book contester’s religious viewpoints and for its depiction of violence.


In 2007 in Oklahoma, “The Bermudez Triangle,” by Maureen Johnson, was ordered pulled from the shelves of the Bartlesville Mid-High Library due to its alleged depiction of homosexuality.


The Oklahoma Library Association noted, “The book was removed from the library, but only two of the eight committee members had read the book.” The book was eventually put on a segregated library shelf where readership was monitored.


“The attempted banning of books is alive throughout the country, and in Oklahoma as well,” said Barb Pfrehm, coordinator for this year’s Banned Books Week at Rose State College. Pfrehm works in the Learning Resources Center, the campus library.


Named by Modern Library as one of the 100 best English language novels of the 20th century, most have heard about banned book attempts on J.D. Salinger’s, “Catcher in the Rye.”


“They are always the classics,” Pfrehm says. “’Huckleberry Finn’ for its racial overtones, ‘Catcher in the Rye’ for its profanity. In Oklahoma, the depiction of homosexuality often makes a book a target.”


Of the five challenged titles in Oklahoma, three were on the list because of issues surrounding sexual orientation. For instance, a request was made to remove  “A Tale of Two Daddies,” by Vanita Oelschlager, from a library because the patron “didn’t want her children exposed to this ‘alternative’ lifestyle.”


“Daddies” was kept on the shelf. “We serve a diverse community,” noted the librarian’s report, suggesting that parents should be the one to monitor such access.


In 2006, notes the Oklahoma report, “The Diary of a Young Girl,” by Anne Frank, was challenged when a school superintendent and principal met with an unnamed English teacher  “to request the book not be taught in the next school year after complaints by a parent concerned that the book was promoting Jewish religion.”


Marking its 30th anniversary, Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community including librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers in shared support of the freedom to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.


In 2011 the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom received 326 reports regarding attempts to remove or restrict materials from school curricula and library bookshelves.


Andrew Spiropoulos, Professor of Law and Director, Center for the Study of State Constitutional Law, Oklahoma City University stated, “From the perspective of the First Amendment, the legal question of whether public libraries can exclude certain books based on their content is a difficult one. While public libraries are not completely free to reject certain books because of their content, given that libraries have limited resources, librarians must choose some books for their institutions and not others.  It is impossible to make these choices without making some judgment about the content of these books.”


In Texas v. Johnson, Supreme Court Justice William Brennan stated, “If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.”


In addition to “A Tale of Two Daddies,” the list of 2012 Oklahoma challenged books, according to the Oklahoma Library Associations includes “Daddy Pappa and Me,” by Leslea Newman; “I know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly,” by Glen Rounds; “Kitty, Kitty, Bang, Bang,” by Cairo; and “Mommy, Mama and Me,” by Leslea Newman.


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