Kayley Robb of the Summerland branch of the Okanagan Regional Library shows a display of books which have been challenged. (John Arendt, Summerland Review.)

COLUMN: A peek into the forbidden

If books were removed based on what some people didn’t like, there would be many bare shelves

As February comes to a close, we celebrate the annual Freedom to Read Week.

You may be thinking, “Why should I care? I live in Canada, not between the covers of Fahrenheit 451.” But the truth is, books and magazines are still regularly challenged, censored, and in some cases removed from the shelves of libraries and schools across the country.

The Freedom to Read website has a detailed list of the numerous works that have been challenged in the past decades.

There have been many reasons for the challenges, such as language, the depiction of sex, race or culture, or portrayals of cultures that aren’t acceptable by today’s standards.

Other reasons, have been quite unique, for example, in 2015 the novel, Mistress of the Game by Tilly Bagshawe was challenged because the author had taken over the series for the late Sidney Sheldon and had done “a terrible job… did not deserve to work on that series, and had ruined what the original author had done.”

In this situation, the library user wanted the book banned based on one opinion.

The problem with that is, opinions are subjective. We’ve all had a friend recommend a book that they love, and despite our best efforts we end up disliking.

If books were removed based on what some people didn’t like, there would be many bare shelves.

It’s important to keep in mind that what may be suitable in some people’s homes, may not be acceptable in others.

But, it is up to us as individuals to decide what we want in our lives, not in others.

As stated in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we have the right to read whatever we want, whenever we want and it is our responsibility to protect that.

This week, make sure to stop by the Summerland library and exercise your right to read by taking a peek at our display of previously banned or challenged books.

Kayley Robb is an Assistant Community Librarian at the Summerland Branch of the Okanagan Regional Library. Her favourite challenged book is The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill.

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