“It’s Perfectly Normal,” a book on sex education, was the most-banned book of last year, and also happens to be sitting on a shelf at TCU’s library.So are “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “Catcher in the Rye” and “What My Mother Doesn’t Know,” which are all books on the 2005 list of the most frequently challenged books.
For 25 years, Banned Books Week has been nationally recognized during the last week of September.
Banned Books Week promotes freedom of speech, free thought and the support for reading banned books, said Linda Barnes, interim head of reference and government information librarian at TCU.
To June Koelker, dean of the Mary Couts Burnett Library, libraries and universities should support academic scholarship and be places where viewpoints can be expressed.
“Libraries aren’t going up to people and shoving books in their houses,” she said.
Koelker said an educated society should not be threatened by ideas.
“When we try to control what people read or have access to, it’s self-defeating,” she said.
Books are banned for different reasons, said Dan Williams, chair and professor of English.
“Sometimes people object to subject matter, sometimes language; it all depends on the particular book and the cultural situation that surrounds it,” said Williams. “Sometimes there are volatile subjects people don’t want to be reminded about.”
These subjects include sexually explicit content, satanism, homosexuality and racism; all have been frequently challenged from 1990 to 1999, according to the American Library Association Office of Intellectual Freedom.
“I’m a firm believer of free speech and not being told what to think and what to believe in,” said Kaye Urbano, a senior psychology major. “When it comes to books, I take it as it is, I really don’t make judgments.”
Nonetheless, Urbano said she was surprised that despite TCU being a Christian school, its library has a comprehensive selection of books that don’t agree with those values.
Barnes, who has been with TCU since 1979, said the library does not censor book, and to her knowledge, TCU books have not been challenged.
“Basically, we do not censor. I think most universities would not censor,” she said. “I think we agree with the American Library Association that restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions.”
According to the association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, universities had 32 challenges to books in the 1990s, but the association estimates that for every reported challenge, up to five go unreported.
In academic courses, such as English, history and contemporary literature, books for the curriculum are decided by the professor, Williams said. He said the English department maintains a list of which books are being used each semester.
Williams said if there is a situation with a text, it would undergo a review with the department committees and the instructor. However, he said, that hasn’t been necessary.
Koelker said the library purchases books based on what fits the needs of the university’s curriculum.