Next week marks the 30th observance of National Banned Book Week, wherein educators, librarians, students and community leaders celebrate their freedom to read by recognizing that our freedom to read is tenuous. While books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available. This happens only thanks to the efforts of those people who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read. Despite the progress made in these thirty years, a book is challenged with alarming frequency. Challenges don’t have to take the form of pitchforks and bonfires—save that stuff for countries whose citizens are unprotected by the First Amendment. The sort of challenges that take place here are generally disputes between parties whose interests in protecting children intersect but differ in the application.
At the Waukee Public Library, we have policies in place to respond to challenges. When a book is brought to our attention, we ask the patron to fill out a Request for Reconsideration form. The request is taken seriously and a committee is formed to review the item in the context of the collection. Members of the library board and the community comprise the Reconsideration Committee. The decision made by the committee is adopted by the library board and the decision to include or withdraw the book becomes final. The Waukee Public Library is a community library which means that the citizens have control over the library but are represented by the seven-member Board of Library Trustees.
I am happy to report that every member of the library board is committed to Intellectual Freedom and the Freedom to Read. The library collection is vast, varied and growing. It reflects the community’s interests, but it also challenges our beliefs, as it should. There is an un-sourced quote from former editor of the Wilson Library Bulletin, Jo Godwin that states: “A truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone.”