The Gazette: Practicing Free Expression

The Cedar Rapids Gazette
by Jennifer Hemmingsen
September 24, 2013

and tango makes threeBanned Book Week Column: Practicing Free Expression (Banned Book Week is the time to practice the right to express unpopular or uncomfortable views.)

With at least a decade between us and the last time a book was completely banned from an Iowa library, Banned Book Week — which starts this week — is more a gentle prod than a call to action.

It’s a chance to reaffirm our belief in the right to free expression. A reminder that our commitment to that right is never tested in easy or uncomplicated ways.

And, although this might seem counterintuitive, it’s also a chance to practice what we preach — to give full hearing and respect to those who would challenge public and school libraries’ inclusion of certain books in their collections.

As Carroll Public Library Director Kelly Fischbach likes to say: You don’t really believe in a right unless you believe in it for your worst enemy.

We can’t celebrate Banned Book Week by making demons out of people who are simply standing up for their beliefs.

Does that mean that I agree? Not one bit. It seems most Iowans don’t, either.

Only 15 books have been challenged in Iowa public and school libraries since 2005, according to the Iowa Library Association.

Fischbach, chairwoman of the association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee, said it’s the kind of thing that might happen only once in a librarian’s career.

There are some usual suspects. The true-life tale of a same-sex penguin couple and their family seems to always rise to the top of the challenged list.

The rest is an odd sort of mix.

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