Archive for Thursday, October 3, 1991


October 3, 1991


As libraries and bookstores nationwide recognize Banned Books Week, the Lawrence School District this month will review two books that parents have requested be removed from school libraries.

The American Library Assn. has designated this week as Banned Books Week. Local libraries that are celebrating the week say it is an issue that rarely comes up in Lawrence.

Susan Peterson, a district library coordinator, said parents had questioned two books this year and committees were scheduled to review them this month. The books are "Do Not Open," by Brinton Turkle, and "The Egypt Game," by Zilpha Snyder.

Bob Taylor, assistant superintendent, said he thought the parents' concerns about the books were well-thought-out, well-written and very detailed. In general, he said, the parents were concerned that supernatural themes in the books were too scary and inappropriate for grade-school children.

SCHOOL DISTRICT policy states that if parents object to material their child has been assigned to read for a class, the teacher will assign alternate material, Taylor said. Parents also can request that a book be removed from a school library by listing their concerns about the book on a standard form.

Books being questioned are read and discussed by a five-member committee consisting of two librarians, an administrator, the principal of the school where the book has been questioned and a member of the school's parent-teacher organization, he said.

Taylor said the district had never removed material from its library shelves because of parents' requests, although about five years ago it moved a book from a grade school to a junior high.

Peterson said parents had questioned more books in the past five years than in the years before. She said many complaints concerned language in books or references to witchcraft and the occult.

WAYNE MAYO, director of the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt., said he didn't think a book had been removed because of a patron's complaint in at least the past 15 years. At most, he said, patrons formally challenge two or three books a year.

Mayo said the library is noting Banned Books Week by displaying some books that had been banned in other places.

"Quite a few things in our collection have been banned at one point or another," he said.

Jane Liggett, librarian at Lawrence High School, said the school's library also contained many books that had been banned elsewhere, such as "The Catcher in the Rye," "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," "Slaughterhouse Five" and "Alice in Wonderland."

Liggett said the school district had a fairly stringent selection policy. Any book the library buys first must undergo professional review in journals such as Booklist, published by the American Library Assn., and the Scholastic Library Journal, among others.

WILLIAM CROWE, dean of libraries at KU, said that in the 20 years he had been working at academic institutions, he had never received a complaint that a book was offensive.

John Nugent, KU archivist, said the university in the 1950s had a traveling display on banned books that it sent to places throughout the country.

Nugent, who has worked at KU since 1950, said he could not recall any time when a book was removed from KU library shelves because of its content.

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