Herald-Whig View

Libraries play role in supporting First Amendment

Posted: Apr. 13, 2018 11:00 am

AS NATIONAL Library Week draws to a close, we would be remiss to not point out the many wonderful libraries with which our region is blessed. Our hometowns and educational campuses feature repositories that rival -- or surpass -- those in many metropolitan areas.

These institutions and their staffs deserve our thanks for their tireless work promoting the open exchange of information and ideas. Their work goes without praise far too often, so taking one week of the year to promote them and their effort is the least we or anyone else could.

We also feel the need to point out that, all too often, their work isn't just overlooked. Oftentimes, it is under attack.

Earlier this week, the American Library Association released its list of the top 10 challenged books in 2017. Among the titles on that list were Jay Asher's "Thirteen Reasons Why" and Sherman Alexie's "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian."

The association reported 354 official challenges to books last year, marking a nearly 10 percent jump from 2016. But the group believes that these challenges -- defined as a "formal, written complaint" -- are just the tip of the iceberg and that more than 10,000 other challenges go unreported each year.

Libraries here are among those seeing challenges to books, though we all should be thankful that those challenges are rare.

"We probably get one or two complaints a year, and they are usually for random book titles, not necessarily the ones that typically top the list of challenged books," Hannibal Free Public Library director Hallie Yundt Silver told The Herald-Whig.

Local libraries take these challenges seriously, as they should. But while parents have a right to be concerned about what their children read and an obligation to be engaged in discussions with their children about this material, no parent -- or any other patron for that matter -- has the right to decide what anyone else can or cannot read.

Under no circumstances should anyone be allowed to censor the ideas and works housed in our libraries. This week marks the perfect opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to the First Amendment, and we hope that it does the same for all of our readers.

Remember, if you're offended by a book's subject matter, you are under no obligation to read it. But maybe you should, if only to open your mind and help you better define what it is that you stand for.