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American Library Association Releases Top 10 List of Challenged Books of 2011

 American Library Association, ALA, released the Top 10 List of Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2011 on Monday in conjunction with National Library Week April 8-14.

Among the list was “The Hunger Games” book series recently released as a major motion picture; "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie, which was removed from an Ozarks school district in recent years; and "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee.

ALA officials on Monday also released the 2012 State of America’s Libraries report, which said the rapid growth of e-books has stimulated increasing demand in libraries, but libraries have only limited access to e-books because of restrictions placed on their use by publishers.

That and book challenges are just two library trends that are placing free access to information in jeopardy, the Chicago-based ALA officials said.

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom received 326 reports regarding attempts to remove or restrict materials from school curricula and library bookshelves.  A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that a book or other material be restricted or removed because of its content or appropriateness.

The Top 10 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2011 includes the reasons given for challenging the book:

1. "ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r" (series) by Lauren Miracle, offensive language; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

2. "The Color of Earth" (series) by Kim Dong Haw, nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

3. "The Hunger Games" trilogy, by Suzanne Collins, anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence

4. "My Mom’s Having A Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy" by Dori Hillestad Butler Nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

5. "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie, offensive language; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

6. "Alice" (series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, nudity; offensive language; religious viewpoint

7. "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley, insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit

8. "What My Mother Doesn’t Know" by Sonya Sones, nudity; offensive language; sexually explicit

9. "Gossip Girl" (series) by Cecily Von Ziegesar, drugs; offensive language; sexually explicit

10. "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee, offensive language; racism

Libraries across the country, including the Springfield-Greene County Library District, are experiencing limited access to e-books due to publishers’ restrictions.

 Some examples:
• Macmillan Publishing, Simon and Schuster and Hachette Book Group refused to sell e-books to libraries.
• HarperCollins imposed an arbitrary 26 loans per e-book license,
• Penguin refused to let libraries lend its new titles altogether
• When Random House raised e-book prices, the ALA urged it to reconsider. “In a time of extreme financial constraint, a major price increase effectively curtails access for many libraries, and especially our communities that are hardest hit economically,” said ALA President Molly Raphael. 

The single-minded drive to reduce budget deficits continued to take its toll on essential services at all levels of society in 2011, with teachers and librarians sometimes seen as easy targets for layoffs, the ALA reported. 

Even during a period of budget battles, however, the library community led by the ALA stood firm against censorship.  Internet-age versions of copyright and piracy issues have shot to the forefront. 

The Stop Online Piracy Act and the PROTECT IP Act of 2011 gained as the library and First Amendment communities took a strong stand against proponents of the legislation.

The State of America’s Libraries Report documents trends in library usage and details the impact of library budget cuts, technology use and the various other challenges facing U.S. libraries.  The full report is available at http://www.ala.org/news/mediapresscenter/americaslibraries/soal2012.
 

Kathleen O’Dell is community relations director for the Springfield-Greene County Library District. She can be reached at kathleeno@thelibrary.org.

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