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COLUMN: Freedom to read at the public library

Freedom to Read Week takes place Feb. 20 to 26
(Thorsten Frenzel - Pixabay)

There has been a lot of conversation surrounding the word “freedom” lately.

The meaning can change depending on the individual, but the guarantee under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is the same for all. Under Section 2(b), everyone has the right to freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.

Never is this statement more true than when public libraries across the country reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom during Freedom to Read Week which takes place Feb. 20 to 26.

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One week out of the year, the library celebrates the freedom to read, but the reality is we fight for your right every day. There is an abundance of reading and listening materials with a wide variety of opinions, thoughts, beliefs and ideals at the library.

There are also those who disagree with these opinions, thoughts and beliefs and as such think that this material should be removed from the public library. We object to this censorship, confident that when people have the freedom to choose, they take responsibility for their own preferences. They should also respect the rights of others to make that same choice.

As you browse through the stacks of the library, there might be books that you find unconventional, inappropriate, or unimportant to you. Having these materials available for the next person to read is critical, these books make an impact on people’s lives.

From the Okanagan Regional Library’s website, our statement on intellectual freedom reads, “We champion access to information and exposure to diverse points of view. The library as a public institution supports the free exchange of ideas as a fundamental part of a democratic society.”

Visit the library and browse the stacks. Check out a challenged book from the display.

Place a request on Maus by Art Spiegelman which was published in 1986 and recently banned from a school library in Tennessee. The waitlist for this Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel is growing, the ban seems to have sparked a renewed interest in the book.

Spiegelman designed a bookmark for banned books week a few years ago. It says “Keep your nose in a book — and keep other people’s noses out of which books you choose to stick your nose into!”

Celebrate Freedom to Read week this February and keep reading banned books.

Caroline McKay is the community librarian of the Summerland branch of the Okanagan Regional Library.

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