By Doug Ireland
---- — There’s something to be said for those guilty little pleasures, whether it’s sneaking that extra brownie, watching reality TV, or picking up a good book.
Yes, picking up a good book. Especially when it’s national Banned Books Week.
Southern New Hampshire libraries are joining thousands of others across the country in recognizing Banned Books Week, which ends Saturday. They are celebrating the public’s freedom to read whichever books they choose by promoting classics some have found objectionable, usually because of offensive language or their political, religious, sexual or violent content.
Libraries from Pelham to Plaistow feature elaborate displays of books this week — some covered with yellow caution tape — whose availability to the public has been restricted or challenged.
“To me, it’s a big deal this week of the year,” said Plaistow Public Library director Diane Arrato Gavrish. “We sometimes take the freedom to read somewhat lightly.”
Surrounding her library’s display of books are the words “forbidden” and “banned.”
There is a similar display at the Derry Public Library, which is also covered with caution tape. In addition, red tape is plastered across the faces of famous authors whose works have been challenged, including Maya Angelou and Roald Dahl.
Like in Plaistow and the other local libraries, the eye-catching displays are attracting attention. They are also prompting people to pick up a book they ordinarily wouldn’t read, librarians said.
The displays are generating plenty of discussion why it’s important to appreciate the freedom to pick out any book one chooses, they said. Seeing that certain books are banned in some places also surprises many patrons.
“People are amazed to see what books are banned,” said Meryle Zusman, communications coordinator at the Derry library. “There are just many books you wouldn’t expect.”
The list even includes that age-old favorite “Alice in Wonderland” along with more recent selections such as the Harry Potter series.
Then, there’s those books whose banning everyone has heard about, such as “The Catcher in the Rye” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
“At public libraries, that is our foundation, making sure everything is available to everyone,” Zusman said. “We don’t ban anything.”
At Pelham Public Library, director Corinne Chronopoulos said she has been pleased to see families looking at the library’s display together.
“The nicest thing is to see parents taking children over and explaining it to their children,” she said.
At Kingston Community Library, children learned about Banned Books Week at a special party held to celebrate the occasion, according to library director Sarah Sycz Jaworski.
One highlight was that children got a chance to have their “mug shot” taken with their favorite banned book,” she said.
Banned Books Week, which began in 1982, is significant because the right to read should not be taken for granted, Jaworski said.
“It’s quite important because (the week) brings to light something people don’t always think about when they go to the library,” she said.
Local librarians said it’s rare that a patron will challenge a book, but it does happen. In that case, patrons must file a formal request that is then reviewed by library trustees. None of the librarians remembered a book being removed from the shelf.
There are occasions when a parent will question the availability of a children’s book, they said.
“Every once in awhile, we will have a few parents say, ‘I just don’t think that is appropriate for my child,’” Jaworski said.
In those cases, the books are often moved to a shelf of books for older children, librarians said.