No banned books here

Published 7:11 pm Saturday, September 26, 2015

As America prepares to celebrate Banned Books Week, it seems folks in Suffolk are pretty tolerant — at least when it comes to what’s in their books.

Library Director Clint Rudy said the Suffolk Public Library system has received only 25 complaints about library materials since 1989.

The library has a form patrons can fill out if they find something in a book offensive. The collection strategy manager reviews the requests by looking at the item, looking up professional reviews and looking to see if other area libraries have it and then deciding whether to keep it available. The complaining patron also receives a letter informing him or her of the decision.

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“We didn’t remove anything from the collection from every one of the 25 I looked at,” Rudy said.

Rudy said the majority of the complaints were from parents who didn’t realize their child was checking out a book meant for older children or adults. There also were a couple of specific magazine covers — Esquire and Rolling Stone — that patrons found objectionable. Rudy didn’t know which issues those were, as they were several years ago.

Although Suffolk citizens seem to have been relatively tolerant about the books in their public library, not all communities have displayed such an accepting attitude, and that’s the point of Banned Books Week, which Rudy said Suffolk will commemorate with displays and interactive games and by distributing special bookmarks.

Keeping a variety of materials available to patrons is important to librarians, and it’s one of the reasons the American Library Association is among the sponsors of Banned Books Week.

“We want it to be a community library,” Rudy said. “We want people to be able to read what they want when they want it. We want that discussion.”

Rudy said the Banned Books Week commemoration is important, because “it really showcases for the whole world what, historically and currently, has been happening with different people challenging certain books.”

According to the American Library Association, more than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982. In 2014, 311 challenges were reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom, though many more go unreported.

Topping the 2014 list is Sherman Alexie’s 2007 young-adult fiction work “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.” Reasons cited for wanting to ban the book run the gamut from anti-family themes and violence to drug use and gambling.

The Suffolk Public Library has two physical copies available, as well as the downloadable audiobook.

Suffolk Public Schools spokeswoman Bethanne Bradshaw also reported a small number of complaints about works kept in school libraries or assigned in class.

There is a process by which parents can complain, which starts with a written request to the principal, Bradshaw said. A review committee including the complainant, the principal, the media specialist, a classroom teacher and a parent or student is formed. Parents can request that work not be assigned to their child or that it be withdrawn from availability to all students.

However, Bradshaw said, no books have been officially banned. She said the system has received about three or four such complaints in the past five years.

To learn more about banned books, visit