Archive for the ‘Intellectual Freedom’ Category

From The Huntsville Times Online – Huntsville, AL:

Ban a great book, stifle a young mind

Wednesday, July 23, 2008 Huntsville Times

” Once again, we have a parent objecting to a book on a school reading list for summer. This one got an amen from a member of the Huntsville Board of Education. Will the philistines never go away?

No, probably not. Whether it’s “Huckleberry Finn” or “The Catcher in the Rye” or, as in this case, Ernest J. Gaines’ “A Lesson Before Dying,” there will always be someone who doesn’t see past the graphic language and situations; some who can’t embrace the larger artistry and the complexities of character and reality that great writers achieve. ”

Read more …


GSLIS Seeks Nominations for Downs Intellectual Freedom Award
June 9, 2008

The Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS) at the University of Illinois seeks nominations for the Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom Award. The deadline for nominations is October 15, 2008.

Given annually, the award acknowledges individuals or groups who have furthered the cause of intellectual freedom, particularly as it impacts libraries and information centers and the dissemination of ideas. Granted to those who have resisted censorship or efforts to abridge the freedom of individuals to read or view materials of their choice, the award may be in recognition of a particular action or long-term interest in, and dedication to, the cause of intellectual freedom.

The Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom Award was established in 1969 by the GSLIS faculty to honor Dean Emeritus Downs, a champion of intellectual freedom, on the occasion of his 25th anniversary as director of the School. Previous winners have included Barbara M. Jones, Wesleyan University Librarian, who was honored for her international work on behalf of intellectual freedom (2007); Michele Reutty, who refused to turn over patron records without a subpoena (2006); John Doe of the court case “John Doe v. Gonzales” (2005); Whatcom County Library System (2004); June Pinnell-Stephens, Collections Services Manager for Fairbanks North Star Borough Public Library, Fairbanks, Alaska, and Mainstream Montgomery County, a Montgomery County Texas organization (2003); retired librarian Zoia Horn and Ginnie Cooper and the Multnomah County Library Board of Trustees (Portland, Oregon) (2002).

Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc., Westport, Connecticut, provides an honorarium to the recipient and co-hosts the reception in honor of the recipient. The reception and award ceremony for the 2008 Downs Intellectual Freedom Award will take place in January 2009 during the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting in Denver, Colorado.

Letters of nomination and documentation about the nominee should be sent by e-mail to with a copy to or in paper form to John Unsworth, Dean, GSLIS, 501 East Daniel Street, Champaign, IL 61820 before October 15. Questions should be directed to Associate Professor Terry Weech at

Khaleej Times Online >> News >> THE WORLD
Egypt censors book fair

28 January 2008

CAIRO – Egypt has banned a number of Western and secular books from the 40th Cairo International Book Fair, including works by Czech author Milan Kundera and Morocco’s Mohamed Choukri, publishers said on Monday.

The Cairo book fair, the Arab world’s largest, is dominated by Islamist and educational works, an AFP correspondent reported, and the authorities have not said why the other works were seized at Cairo airport.

“The Egyptian authorities have given no explanation, we were neither informed nor consulted about this measure and the books have not been returned to us,” said Rana Idriss, director of Lebanese publishing house Dar al-Adab.

She said that four works by Kundera, including “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” and “The Book of Laughter and Forgetting,” were barred from the fair.

Germany’s Al-Jamal publishers said the authorities had seized copies of Moroccan author Mohamed Choukri’s autobiographical “For Bread Alone” which contains references to teenage sex and drug use and is banned in several Arab countries.

The taboo-busting “Love in Saudi Arabia” by young novelist Ibrahim Badi has also been banned, along with “Women of Sand and Myrrh” by Lebanon’s Hanan al-Sheikh.

The story deals with the position of women in the Gulf and mentions homosexuality.

Elias Khoury, a renowned Lebanese writer who describes himself as atheist, secular and left-wing, had his “As If She Were Sleeping” seized.

Egypt’s State Information Service says that the Cairo book fair has “over the past years become a great cultural event, and a spacious scene for conducting dialogue among intellectuals, men of letters and artists.

Why I Chose Library Studies

Posted: December 20, 2007 in Intellectual Freedom

Printed from the Independent Weekly website:

Banned books, blank minds

By Lisa Sorg

In Fahrenheit 451, author Ray Bradbury imagined a future in which books were illegal, citizens watched TV on ginormous sets and listened to “Seashell Radio” attached to their ears.

Fifty-four years after the novel was published, we have the 63-inch plasma television, which, in a typical American household, is on an average of eight hours a day. We have the iPod (full disclosure: I own one), whose immersive environment shields us from our surroundings. And some school districts such as Johnston County are banning certain books—in effect, outlawing them—for content the thought police have deemed offensive.

A Dec. 14 News & Observer article announced that after banning the award-winning story How the García Girls Lost Their Accents in response to a parental complaint, school officials are now “scouring library shelves for potentially offensive books to remove.”

That’s certainly an excellent use of their time. According to the district’s Web site, 21 of 39 Johnson County schools didn’t meet federally mandated adequate yearly progress, standards that measure advancement toward student proficiency in reading, language arts and math. Instead of encouraging students to read—and in turn discussing and questioning a book’s content—school officials are vilifying the written word. They are becoming 21st-century versions of Capt. Beatty, the character in Bradbury’s novel who calls books “treacherous weapons.”

Beatty is right about one thing: Books are weapons. They can challenge the status quo. Upend conventional thinking. Illustrate diverse viewpoints. Reflect the human condition, as does How the García Girls Lost Their Accents, Julia Alvarez’s semi-autobiographical story of sisters whose family immigrates from the Dominican Republic to the Bronx. It’s a gritty, yet poignant tale, a lot like life.

Unless, of course, you’re bent on living a hermetically sealed existence, immune from difficulty and difficult subject matter. If book-banners are intent on leading such a sanitized life then here are some immediate measures to take:

Worried about profanity? Take your kid off the school bus, because those vehicles are filthy four-letter words on wheels.

Sexual situations? Ditch the TV set. Toss the radio in the trash. Do not turn on the computer. Eschew all magazines and newspapers. And absolutely avoid the mall. Rip a few pages out of the Bible, too, for there are references to prostitutes.

Certainly, society has become coarsened and oversexualized. But banning books will not transport us to the imaginary set of Leave It to Beaver. Rather, it will push us into a repressive world where we blindly follow orders and refuse to question our leaders; where we shield ourselves from disturbing images and thoughts, lest they disrupt our rosy worldview.

Wait, I think we’re already there.

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From the Toronto Star:

Board widens ban on fantasy novels – GTA – Board widens ban on fantasy novels

Halton Catholic rejects committee’s advice

December 20, 2007
Daniel Girard
Kristin Rushowy
Education Reporters

The Halton Catholic school board has rejected the recommendation of its book committee and banned the children’s fantasy novel The Golden Compass, as well as the subsequent books in the trilogy, which were not officially under review.

The board said the novels in author Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy are not in keeping with “the Catholic values that we are trying to teach children.”

A majority of trustees felt the series was “not in line with our governing values … so they chose to take it out of the library,” board chair Alice Anne LeMay said in an interview. LeMay said she favoured the proposal to limit access to the books to those in Grades 7 and up.

The decision, made in a vote Tuesday, follows a move by the board last month to pull The Golden Compass from library shelves after a complaint. The board’s elementary principals were also directed not to distribute a Scholastic flyer that had the book available to order.

The book review committee recommended The Golden Compass, now a major film, be returned to shelves and made available to students in Grade 7 and up.

The Golden Compass tells the story of a young girl’s travels to the edge of another universe, where she’s involved in a battle between good and evil. Written by Pullman, a self-described atheist, it’s seen by critics as anti-religion.

“I’m pretty comfortable in our faith to know that a book won’t force them to waver in it,” said Angie Pettyjohn, a member of the school council at St. Joan of Arc Catholic School in Oakville who has kids in Grades 5 and 8.

The Dufferin-Peel Catholic school board, which has The Golden Compass in some libraries but is not teaching it in classes, has received at least one complaint, said community relations manager Bruce Campbell.

York Catholic schools have it on library shelves for a recommended audience of Grade 7 to 10, and had had no complaints, said a spokesperson.