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Librarian in Residence: Celebrate freedom of expression with Freedom to Read Week!

By Jessica Green on February 23, 2014


Jessica Green is a book addict and library card holder since the age of 3. She’s a librarian at the Ottawa Public Library and currently the Apartment613 Librarian-in-Residence, sharing a compendium of literary thoughts and tips.

Freedom to Read week takes place from February 23rd to March 1st and it is an annual event run by the Book and Periodical Council of Canada. Libraries of all varieties (as well as independent bookstores) take part in this week as it is one of the central tenets of libraries to promote intellectual freedom. As taken from the OPL website, “we defend the rights of library customers to freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression as the basis of a democratic society.” Despite these lofty goals, people challenge books all the time for various reasons. If you’re curious, the Freedom to Read website has a great listing of the challenged works where you’ll find examples of titles both in English and French, as well as a downloadable list in English and also a non exhaustive list en français of the French authors or works which have been censored since 1930 to today.

You’ll find some of the often challenged titles like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson or even To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. But there’s other more contemporary books that have been also been challenged like And Tango Make Three by Justin Richardson, the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, the French graphic novel series Les Nombrils by Delaf and Maryse Dubuc or Three Wishes by Deborah Ellis.

There’s even a separate section on the Freedom to Read website about the Canadian Library Association’s Challenges Survey results where libraries are encouraged to write in about the various challenges to material they receive each year. It’s an interesting list as it seems most of the challenged material is mixed between DVDs and graphic novels, and I also discovered that a book I enjoy doing with class visits was challenged in another library: Werner Holzwarth’s The Story of the Little Mole Who Went in Search of Whodunit  (or in French, De la petite taupe qui voulait savoir qui lui avait fait sur la tête). Trust me, the under-ten age group find the book hilarious, but it is a very silly story about poop.

Many of the public library branches around the city will be doing displays for Freedom to Read week, so stop in to see what books have been challenged and enjoy some freedom of expression!

Three quick links:

Ack-ack Macaque by Gareth Powell: A very cool sci-fi story set in the future where cybernetic enhancements have led to synthetic souls and computer games are immersive. And there’s a cigar chomping, gun toting macaque looking to change the current world order. One of my faves so far this year.

Fakebook by Dave Cicirelli: The retelling of a six month long practical joke done by the author where he faked quitting his job and proceeded to have many misadventures while walking across the US. He also muses about Facebook and its place in our lives.

The Scottish Banker of Surabaya by Ian Hamilton: If you haven’t read any Ava Lee novels, you really should, as she is one of the more interesting “sleuths” of late. In her fifth outing, it becomes personal as she battles to recover money lost by a friend of her mother’s as well as discover what is going on with her business partner.