Friday, September 28, 2007

Banned books to be on display at library

Sept. 28, 2007

David Poe/Lariat staff
These are just some of the books that will be on display during Banned Books Week starting Sunday at the Moody Memorial Library. The display will last through Oct. 6.

By Christine Bolanos

From Sunday through Oct. 6, Baylor will host Banned Books Week for the first time. The celebration was established by the American Library Association 26 years ago to promote awareness of and appreciation for the First Amendment.

Library book content can be challenged by anyone. If the book is removed from a library as a result of such challenges, it is considered banned. Books can be banned for a variety of reasons, including sexual content, homosexuality, violence, or abuse of children for instance.

Pattie Orr, vice president for information technology and dean of university libraries, values Noam Chomsky's statement that "if we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all."

It is a perfect example of what intellectual freedom means to her.

The university libraries will have a Brown Bag Lunch Read-out on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from noon to 1 p.m. at the Harvey Garden of Moody Memorial Library. Faculty, students and staff will read selections from their favorite banned books. Orr will be reading a selection from Alms of Jihad: Charity and Terrorism in the Islamic World on Monday.

Alms of Jihad: Charity and Terrorism in the Islamic World was published by Cambridge University Press and was the subject of a British libel lawsuit brought by Saudi banker Khalid bin Mahfouz.

According to the Office for Intellectual Freedom's Web site,, Mahfouz has filed similar lawsuits against books which claim the Saudi government has used Islamic charities to fund terrorism. The site goes on to say that critics are convinced Mahfouz is attempting to silence critics by using British libel law.

Instead of risking a large damage award at trial, Cambridge University Press agreed to pulp unsold copies and asked libraries to return the book to the publisher or destroy it. Unless there is an order from a U.S. court, the British settlement is unenforceable in the U.S.

"Over my dead body will they remove this book from our library unless it's court order," Orr said repeatedly when discussing the book.

The American Library Association Web site lists the top 10 most challenged books of 2006. These books have been challenged for a variety of controversial issues, including sexual content, homosexuality, abuse of children and violence. Baylor libraries will soon house all 10 of these books.

"Just because we may not promote these lifestyles doesn't mean we can pretend these issues don't exist," acquisition Librarian Kathy Hillman said. "Social work, education and psychology majors will deal with people who do have these lifestyles once they are in the work force, and so we have to make them aware of that."

Hillman was surprised that In the Night Kitchen, a children's picture book by Maurice Sendak, made it to the top 100 most challenged books of 2006.

In the Night Kitchen is about a 3-year-old named Mickey who loses his pajamas when he enters the Night Kitchen and spends most of the story naked. Despite the controversy surrounding it, Sendak won the 1971 Caldecott Honor Book Award for it.

Deanna Toten-Beard, a theater historian with research interests in early 20th-century American theater, was equally surprised that Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer, Of Mice and Men and human development books have been banned.

"Plays such as Spinning into Butter that the theatre department presents raise the iron," Toten-Beard said.

Spinning into Butter is about racism at a predominantly white college campus in a contemporary setting. It's based on the book Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman.

"It raises some hard questions. Instead of avoiding them, though, these questions should be discussed," Toten-Beard said.

"There is a dead-on conception that Baylor wouldn't want to hang out in messy things. A college has to have intellectual engagement of the world though; it's a university, not a church," Toten-Beard said. "Students need to understand that they do not have to choose between becoming intellectually engaged or being Christian."

Beth Tice, assistant director for university libraries and resources and collection management, said students should be able to find out the truth on their own terms, and the best way for the student to find truth is at the library.

"What if someone was telling you not to read a book? How would that make you feel?" Tice asked. "Fortunately though, university libraries don't have to deal with censorship as much as public and school libraries do, where there's lots of parent involvement."

She said Baylor's collection of books is not perfect though.

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