Eastern Iowa libraries plan programs, displays for Banned Books week

Library director says fear behind most book bannings

A display for banned books at the Marion Public Library, 1095 6th Ave, in Marion on Tuesday September 25, 2012. (Stephen
A display for banned books at the Marion Public Library, 1095 6th Ave, in Marion on Tuesday September 25, 2012. (Stephen Mally/Freelance)

Eastern Iowa author Dori Hillestad Butler will take a public stance against censorship Sunday.

As part of the Coralville Public Library’s Banned Books Week live display, she and other volunteers will silently read a book that has been banned or challenged.

In Butler’s case, the book could be her own.

Butler’s children’s book, “My Mom’s Having A Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy” is among those on this year’s list of the top 10 most challenged books.

“It’s faced challenges, off and on, basically since it was published (in 2005),” says Butler.

The book garnered renewed attention in 2011, though, when a baby-sitter in Texas took issue with it and took her concerns to her local Fox-affiliate TV station. From there, the story went national.

“I think that’s why it’s on the list this year,” Butler says. “Before that, the challenges were very quiet. Most authors aren’t even aware that their book has been challenged or where a challenge originated from and why.”

Butler isn’t surprised that some people have issue with the content of her book, which describes how the baby got inside the mother’s stomach as well as his monthly development. She supports parents who decide their child isn’t ready for this material. That, she says, is their right.

“When a parent wants to restrict other children from my book – that’s what makes me angry,” Butler says.

Last year, there were 326 challenges reported to the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom. These challenges were based on everything from offensive language, to violence, insensitivity, religious viewpoint and sexual explicitness.

More than 11,000 books have been challenged — though not necessarily successfully censored — since 1982, the inaugural year of Banned Books Week. According to the American Library Association, the vast majority of challenges to books are initiated by parents in attempts to protect their children from material they deem too graphic, explicit or unsuitable.

“When you ask yourself why books are banned, it’s usually because of fear,” says Doug Raber, director of the Marion Public Library. “But the fact is you can’t really make any changes if you can’t get all the ideas out on the table.”

Banned Book Week, which will be held Sunday through Oct. 6 this year, celebrates the freedom to read while bringing national attention to the harms of censorship. The week’s goal is to bring together the entire literary community – librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachersand readers.

The Marion Public Library will observe Banned Books Week with a display of banned and challenged books near the information desk that have been wrapped in plain brown paper. The title and description of the book is written on each package, along with the reasons why it was banned. For instance, “To Kill a Mockingbird” is described as a “filthy, trashy novel.”

The library will host “BYOBB2: Bring Your Own Brown Bag lunch and Bring Your Own Banned Book” at noon on Oct. 19, giving the public an opportunity to talk about banned and challenged books and the power of literature.

“I encourage everyone to deliberately go out and read a banned book,” Raber says. “It will be good for them.”

The Cedar Rapids Public Library will mark Banned Book Week with a display that features a number of banned books with paper bands wrapped around them. Patrons will have to tear the band open to get to the book.

“Intellectual freedom is a profound gift and legacy that needs to be guarded by each generation to pass the same to our children,” says Bob Pasicznyuk, director of the Cedar Rapids Public Library. “That is why it’s important to recognize Banned Book Week.”

Iowa City’s recognition of Banned Book Week coincides with its Intellectual Freedom Festival.

The annual event features several free public programs that highlights everyone’s right to freedom of thought and expression. A complete listing of these events can be found on the library website at

“We are fortunate in our country that we have the freedom to read what we want. There are some places that don’t have that,” says Kara Logsden, the Iowa City Public Library’s Community Services coordinator. “Banned Books Week and the Intellectual Freedom Festival remind us to take the time to recognize that freedom so that we will continue to protect it.”

This is the second year that the Coralville Public Library has staged a living display of people reading books that have been banned or challenged in schools and libraries across the country. The readers sign up for a 30 to 60-minute shift and read silently in the library’s public display window.

“The people who did it last year really enjoyed it and the comments we received from the public shows that this display really drives home the idea of intellectual freedom,” says Alison Ames Galstad, Coralville’s library director. “Public libraries maintain a collection which represents a broad topic of viewpoints and opinions. Providing free and open access to this information is the primary mission of the library.”

Butler is the first reader for this year’s display. She was the first reader last year, too.

“A 7 or 8-year-old came in with her mom while I was reading and asked what was going on,” she says. “I listened as she explained what the display was and why it was important, and that validated it for me.”

For more information about Banned Book Week, or to see a list of the most challenged books since 1982, visit the American Library Association website at


The Top 10 Challenged Books of 2011

1.) “ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r” (series)

By: Lauren Myracle

Reasons: offensive language; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

2.) “The Color of Earth” (series)

By: Kim Dong Hwa

Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

3.) “The Hunger Games” trilogy,

By: Suzanne Collins

Reasons: 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

Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

5.) “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,”

By: Sherman Alexie

Reasons: offensive language; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

6.) “Alice (series),”

By: Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Reasons: nudity; offensive language; religious viewpoint

7.) “Brave New World,”

By: Aldous Huxley

Reasons: insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit

8.) “What My Mother Doesn't Know,”

By: Sonya Sones

Reasons: nudity; offensive language; sexually explicit

9.) “Gossip Girl (series),”

By: Cecily Von Ziegesar

Reasons: drugs; offensive language; sexually explicit

10.) “To Kill a Mockingbird,”

By: Harper Lee

Reasons: offensive language; racism   

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