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Banned Books Week at Library

This week celebrates Banned Books Week, but maybe more fittingly, it should be considered Challenged Books Week, or even better, Freedom to Read Week.

Doesn't have quite the same ring to it, though.

Banned Books Week highlights the value and freedom of reading and access to information. Books that have been banned or challenged at one time or another are displayed and recognized, including a display of them at the Detroit Lakes Library.

"Historically, books have been banned from different places, challenged. 'Banned in Boston' was an old phrase," Librarian Mary Haney said, "about books that were not allowed to be read or published or available in certain locations."

This is the 30th anniversary of the nationally recognized Banned Books Week.

Banned or challenged books have been noted throughout the years. Some are well-known, others, not so much.

"It was banned when it was first published, 'Huckleberry Finn.' It was banned in the South because of the positive light it cast on a relationship between white people and African American people. And in recent times, it's been banned because of its use of (dialect)," Haney said. "It's been banned in recent years in schools where people object to the negative light it casts."

By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship.

The books featured during Banned Books Week have all been targeted with removal or restrictions in libraries and schools. While books have been and continue to be challenged, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available.

Books are challenged for many different reasons. And some of the topics of challenge have changed over the years as well. It used to be more often about racism and class differences -- now the challenges are regarding homosexuality, sex or inappropriate language.

A few years ago, there was a drive in Minnesota to ban from all public libraries the book "Daddy's Roommate" about two gay fathers and a son.

The book became one of the most challenged books in recent years, with the American Library Association listing it at No. 2 on their list of the 100 most challenged books from 1990-1999.

The American Library Association also says that "And Tango Makes Three" was the most challenged book of 2006 to 2010, except for 2009 when it was the second most challenged. It is about two gay penguins.

Libraries have a procedure to challenge books. It starts with a written request from someone who must have read the book first. They'll need to describe why they want it re-categorized or removed from the shelves.

"When the Harry Potter books started coming out and being so popular, people asked to have them removed from the public library," she said, "because they felt it was not Christian."

There are no books that are banned from the Detroit Lakes Library.

"More frequently, the way it comes up in a public library is a parent will find a book and ask that we reclassify it, say from a young adult to an adult novel," Haney said.

"It (challenges) goes on a lot more in the school libraries than in the public libraries, but we still get some every year."

Seventy to 80 years ago, the books were challenged and banned, or even burned, more frequently.

Many of the great classics were challenged and/or banned at one time -- "The Great Gatsby," "Catcher in the Rye," "To Kill a Mockingbird," "Grapes of Wrath," "The Color Purple," "Farewell to Arms," "Of Mice and Men" and "The Lord of the Flies" to name a few.

"The one that amazes me is Madeleine L'Engle's 'A Wrinkle in Time' because love conquers all. It was one of the first really good science fiction books for children," she said. "It's beautifully written."

For more information on books that have been challenged or banned over the years, visit the American Library Association at

"Banned Book Week is a catchy title, but it really should be Freedom to Read Week," Haney said.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.