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In nation's highly charged political atmosphere, national group says dozens of incidents were reported at public and college libraries across the country in the weeks following the presidential election.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP FILE PHOTO - Oregon libraries joined others across the nation to collect information on bias-crime incidents as part of the annual book challenge report.Four days after the November 2016 presidential election, swastikas and racist threats were scrawled on Reed College's library walls. Students responded with a rally and messages of support.

Reed wasn't alone. Days after the election, more than 200 college and public school campuses and public libraries across the country dealt with similar racist and anti-Semitic incidents. In the three months that followed Donald Trump's election, after a campaign fueled by super-heated rhetoric about immigrants, Muslims and minority groups, the Southern Poverty Law Center gathered information on nearly 1,400 bias-related incidents like the one at Reed College. Between November and February, Oregonians reported 50 incidents to the Montgomery, Alabama, organization. Washington reported 65 incidents. California had the most at 154.

Public libraries weren't spared. Many were thrust into the fray, putting them on the front lines in a highly charged political atmosphere. Three dozen incidents were reported at public and college libraries across the country in the weeks following the election. The incidents included anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, racist and white nationalist graffiti, and damaged or vandalized books, many about Islam or related topics.

"We're shared space," said James LaRue, director of the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom and head of the Freedom to Read Foundation. "People come to us. Our doors are open to anyone."

That's why, since January, the American Library Association has collected information about bias- or hate-related incidents in libraries for the first time as part of its annual report on challenged books. Oregon libraries have used the ALA form, which includes a box to report bias-crime incidents, since July.

COURTESY PHOTO: REED COLLEGE - Racist and threatening graffiti was scrawled on the wall of Reed College's library just days after the November presidential election.

Surge after the election

As Banned Book Week (Sept. 24 to 30) highlights challenged books and material, LaRue said it also points out struggles library staffs face each day trying to maintain neutral ground in the nation's political shouting match.

"I believe so strongly that the work we do is vital and that we are trying to make sure that everybody has the right to access the content of our culture," LaRue said during a January webinar outlining the ALA's new reporting requirements. "And often we are the only place within a community that does that."

CHALLENGED BOOKSFor the past 27 years, ALA staff has collected information on challenges to books and other material from the nation's 9,000 public libraries and nearly 98,000 school libraries. The information is straightforward: Someone didn't like a book, a magazine, a recording or a video and asked library staff to either remove it or restrict its circulation. That information is voluntarily recorded by library staff on a standard form and sent to the association, where it is added to a national database.

Between 2000 and 2009, there were more than 5,000 library material challenges reported to the ALA. Only about 10 percent of challenged material is removed from library shelves, according to the association. Between 3 and 12 percent of library material challenges aren't reported, LaRue said.

As the divisive 2016 presidential election drew closer, LaRue was asked if libraries had reported an increase in bias crimes or incidents. His research turned up only one reported incident in three years. In the three weeks after the presidential election, LaRue said eight incidents were reported at libraries.

Since then, 36 bias-related incidents have been reported by libraries across the country. Most were defaced books or scrawled graffiti on walls, as was the case in December when two young teens doodled swastikas and racist language on a table at Cottage Grove's public library, the first time something like that had happened in the small town's library south of Eugene.

Two other incidents reported in other states involved Muslim women being harassed on library property, LaRue said.

"The biggest surge was right after the election," he said last week. "Then there was a long silence in the summer and it picked up again when school started. Evidence suggests this is a teen-related phenomenon, I'm not sure why.

"It doesn't seem to be growing month by month. After the end of the year, we might take another look at this and see if we need to keep tracking it."

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP FILE PHOTO - Oregon libraries said 20 books, magazines and videos were challenged at six public libraries during the past 12 months. All of the challenged material was retained.

Hidden videos and 'Curious George'

Oregon's Intellectual Freedom Clearinghouse reported last month that 20 books, recordings, videos and magazines were challenged in six Oregon public libraries. Last year, there were nine challenges. In 2012, there were 28 challenges, the most in the past nine years.

The state clearinghouse has collected information on local library material challenges since 1988. This year included a nationwide campaign to remove Teen Vogue magazine from at least two Oregon libraries because of a sexually explicit article in the July issue. The campaign by Elizabeth Johnston of Ohio, known as the 'Activist Mommy,' asked parents to demand that libraries, grocery stores and other businesses remove the magazine.

This year's challenges included a patron's claim that H.A. Rey's popular children's book "Curious George" promoted racist values and was unsuitable for young children. In another case, a Baker County Library patron hid seven homosexual- or sexual-themed videos in the Baker City library so others couldn't check them out. When library staff eventually discovered the hidden videos (or had to buy replacement videos), they tracked down the patron responsible for the incidents and banned that person for six months.

WHO CHALLENGED?According to the clearinghouse report, of the 20 challenges, four were books, two were recordings, 13 were videos and one was a magazine. Three of the challenges were brought by parents and 17 were brought by patrons. Each of the challenges was reviewed by a library board or trustees.

Nineteen of the challenged items were retained. One challenge was to a movie preview on a video, copies of the video with the challenged preview were removed and copies of the video without the challenged preview were retained, according to the clearinghouse report.

Items challenged in Oregon libraries between July 1, 2016, and June 30 were:

• "2 Days in Paris" by Julie Deply (video)

Objection: Cultural (insensitivity)

Comments: Patron objected to anti-gay content

• "Anomalisa" by Charlie Kaufman (video)

Objection: 1. Sexual (sexually explicit, unsuited to age) 2. Values (anti-family)

Comments: Patron objected to the age difference between two characters who engaged in sexual activity, and that one of those characters was a family man.

• "Beautiful Thing" by Hettie MacDonald (video)

Objection: Sexual (homosexuality)

Comments: Patron hid the video to restrict other patrons' access to LGBT images and prevent potential harm to children.

• "Blind" by Eskil Vogt (video)

Objection: Sexual (nudity, sexually explicit)

• "Blue is the Warmest Color" by Abdellatif Kechiche (video)

Objection: Sexual (homosexuality)

Comments: Patron hid the video to restrict other patrons' access to LGBT images and prevent potential harm to children.

• "The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls," by Claire Legrand (book)

Objection: Values (violence)

Comments: Patron requested the material be moved from juvenile to teen due to disturbing content and dark/scary themes.

• "Curious George" by H. A. Rey (book)

Objection: 1. Values (racism) 2. Other (unsuited to age)

• "Free Fall" by Stephan Lacant (video)

Objection: Sexual (homosexuality)

Comments: Patron hid the video to restrict other patrons' access to LGBT images and prevent potential harm to children.

• "George" by Alex Gino (book)

Objection: Sexual (unsuited to age)

• "Holding the Man" by Neil Armfield (video)

Objection: Sexual (homosexuality)

Comments: Patron hid the video to restrict other patrons' access to LGBT images and prevent potential harm to children.

• "Keep the Lights On" by Ira Sachs (video)

Objection: Sexual (homosexuality)

Comments: Patron hid the video to restrict other patrons' access to LGBT images and prevent potential harm to children.

• "Killer Joe" by William Friedkin (video)

Objection: 1. Sexual (sexually explicit) 2. Values (violence)

• "La Leyenda de la Llorona," by Alberto Rodriguez (video)

Objection: 1. Sexual (homosexuality, nudity, sexually explicit, unsuited to age) 2. Values (violence) 3. Social Issues (drugs, suicide) 4. Other (disturbing)

Comments: Patron objected to a preview of La Leyenda de la Llorona that was on a different video. Copies of the video with the challenged preview were removed from the collection and copies of the video without the challenged preview were retained.

• "Longtime Companion" by Norman Rene (video)

Objection: Sexual (homosexuality)

Comments: Patron hid the video to restrict other patrons' access to LGBT images and prevent potential harm to children.

• Maxim by Dennis Maxim Inc. (magazine)

Objection: Cultural (sexism)

Comments: The patron objected to a lack of intellectual content, misogynistic worldviews, and objectification of women.

• "Mr. Brooks" by Bruce A. Evans (video)

Objection: 1. Sexual (nudity, sexually explicit) 2. Values (violence)

Comments: Patron objected to an explicit sex scene and the topic of serial killers.

• "Pretty Little Liars: Ali's Pretty Little Lies" by Sara Shepard (book)

Objection: Values (offensive language)

Comments: Patron requested putting a warning label on the material because of the language.

• "A Room of My Own," by Donald Davis (recording)

Comments: Parent objected to an innuendo in the second story, "Talking with the Lights On," and was concerned it objectified women and girls. Parent requested putting a label on the material recommending parents preview it.

• "Running with Scissors" by Augusten Burroughs (recording)

Objection: 1. Sexual (sexually explicit, unsuited to age) 2. Values (anti-family, offensive language)

Comments: Patron concerned material is child pornography and promotes child sexual abuse.

• "Tipping the Velvet" by Geoffrey Sax (video)

Objection: Sexual (homosexuality)

Comments: Patron hid the video to restrict other patrons' access to LGBT images and prevent potential harm to children.


PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP FILE PHOTO - The American Library Association began collecting information about bias-related incidents at public libraries this year because of an increase of incidents around the presidential election.

Banned books by the numbers

From 2000 to 2009, 5,099 challenges were reported to the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom in Chicago.

• 1,577 challenges due to "sexually explicit" material

• 1,291 challenges due to "offensive language"

• 989 challenges due to materials deemed "unsuited to age group"

• 619 challenged due to "violence"'

• 361 challenges due to "homosexuality"

• 274 materials were challenged due to "occult" or "Satanic" themes, an additional • 291 were challenged due to their "religious viewpoint," and 119 because they were "anti-family."

• 1,639 of these challenges were in school libraries; 1,811 were in classrooms; 1,217 took place in public libraries. There were 114 challenges to materials used in college classes, and 30 to academic libraries. There are isolated cases of challenges to library materials made available in or by prisons, special libraries, community groups, and students.

• Most challenges were initiated by parents (2,535), with patrons and administrators to follow (516 and 489 respectively).

Source: American Library Association



Kevin Harden
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