Sunday, April 12, 2009

She forgot all about the library like she told her old man, now

The FIRST National Library week in America was celebrated in 1958.

Just a few years later (on January 1, 1964), the Beach Boys released a song titled “Fun, Fun, Fun”, which was inspired by the adventures of a real person named Shirley England, who drove her father’s Thunderbird to the hamburger stand instead of to the library:

I’ll have to admit that I’d probably prefer to go cruising in a vintage Thunderbird than to go to a library, but I’ll also admit that I have a strong emotional attachment to my local library.

This year, national library week will be celebrated from April 12 through April 18.

Each year, the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom compiles a list of the ten most challenged books.

The 10 most challenged books of 2007 reflect a range of themes, and are:

1. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
Reasons: Anti-Ethnic, Sexism, Homosexuality, Anti-Family, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group
2. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Violence
3. Olive’s Ocean, by Kevin Henkes
Reasons: Sexually Explicit and Offensive Language
4. The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman
Reasons: Religious Viewpoint
5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
Reasons: Racism
6. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language,
7. TTYL, by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group
8. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
Reasons: Sexually Explicit
9. It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
Reasons: Sex Education, Sexually Explicit
10. The Perks of Being A Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age

I have to admit that I’m a little surprised that Huckleberry Finn (published in 1884) is still on the list, but I don’t make the rules, and neither does the ALA.

In other counties, being on the challenged book list can have dire consequences.

When Salman Rushdie’s novel “Satanic Verses” was released in 1988, it received mixed reviews in England, but it still won the Whitbread award for the Novel of the Year.

In Islamic countries, though, it was considered blasphemous, which caused the Ayatollah Khomeini to issue a “fatwa”, or death sentence, against Mr. Rushdie. Although Mr. Rushdie is still alive and well, at least 38 people have been killed as a result of their association with the novel.

Mr. Rushdie was recently awarded the 2009 Carl Sandburg Award by the Chicago Public Library Foundation

The irony about the Salman Rushdie book (which I’ve read) is that the first group of people in the world to grant freedom of speech was the Muslims.

During the early part of the “Islamic Golden Age”, the caliph Umar declared that freedom of speech should be permitted, and that was in the 7th Century, when Europe was truly in the “Dark Ages”. The forward-thinking Muslims also created the first degree-granting University in the world in the year 859, when Al-Karaouine was founded in Fes, Morocco. It has operated continuously ever since.

Long before the enlightened Muslims created the world’s first University, the ancient Greeks were also well aware of need to acquire knowledge. In the third century B.C., they established what was probably the world’s first public
library in Alexandria.

In America, a man named Andrew Carnegie also recognized the value of public libraries, and he donated enough money to build over 2500 public libraries between 1883 and 1929.

America’s first tax supported library, a Carnegie library, was opened in Pittsburgh in 1890.

A typical modern library in America not only has thousands of books and magazines, but it also has a wide variety of CD’s and DVD’s, and many, many computer resources.

Contrary to what TV aficionados might think, time spent in a library can be fun, fun, fun.

Shirley England doesn’t know what she’s missing.

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