Although controversy surrounds books banned from school libraries, university libraries do not generally receive challenges.
“Challenging is an attempt to ban or restrict a book,” Molly Royse, the Hodges Library head of research collections, said. “The ban is the result of a successful challenge.”
The Library Bill of Rights protects books by entrusting libraries to challenge censorship and to provide information “presenting all points of view on current and historical issues.”
“I see librarians as guardians of the freedom to read,” Royse said.
Barbara Dewey, dean of UT Libraries, said the public libraries and K-12 school libraries more commonly receive challenges instead of higher academic libraries.
“These challenges come from people outside of the libraries — people who object to libraries owning certain titles,” Dewey said.
Dewey said challenged books can range from Webster’s dictionary to The Bible. Juvenile books are a common target for challenging, because parents object to exposing their children to certain sexual, religious and racial issues.
Royse said the popular “Harry Potter” series is an example of a challenged book.
“The ‘Harry Potter’ books were offensive to some folks because they considered it bordering on black magic,” Royse said.
Often times, however, challenged books receive higher profits because of their increase in publicity and visibility, Dewey said. Every year, The American Library Association compiled the top 10 most challenged books. Last year’s list included such titles as “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain and “The Golden Compass” by Philip Pullman.
Many of the classics often appear on this list, Dewey said.
Reasons for people’s objections include the use of racism in “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and disagreement with the religious viewpoint expressed in “The Golden Compass.”
Although banned books receive publicity, not many works are challenged.
“It’s very rare to ban a book,” Royse said.
Most challenges are also unsuccessful, said Dewey, who said she has never received even one for any books in UT’s library over the nine years she has been employed, despite the library having a majority of the books from the ALA’s challenged book list.
“Under our freedom of speech philosophy in this country, we should be able to read a variety of books,” Dewey said.
If a library receives a challenge on one of their books, the library can receive legal aid from the ALA to fight against it. It is not common for books to be banned in the United States.
“The reason we have them has nothing to do with their being challenged,” Royse said. “The librarians have selection responsibility, based upon our academic goals. There is a difference between censorship, which is exclusive, and selection, which is inclusive.”
Royse has noticed a trend in certain books that are repeatedly pulled from libraries.
“Certain books that disappear from our shelves makes me surmise that someone is doing their own censoring,” Royse said.
Royse said she did not want to name publicly the titles in question. She said some books are genuinely lost by students, and they pay a replacement fee.
“In other cases, we do wonder if someone has decided we didn’t need that material on our shelf,” Royse said.
Disputed books often stay on UT shelves
Published: Mon Nov 03, 2008 | Modified: Mon Nov 03, 2008 05:49 p.m.