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Three comics — Persepolis, Saga and Drama — were among the 10 most frequently challenged books last year in U.S. public schools and libraries, according to the American Library Association. This appears to be the most comics to make the list.
The organization released the annual findings of its Office of Intellectual Freedom as part of National Library Week. In 2014, the OIF received 311 complaints to remove or restrict materials in public libraries or in school curricula, up only slightly from the year before.
Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi’s memoir of her life as a child and young adult in Iran during the Islamic revolution, came in at No.2, with complaints frequently citing “gambling, offensive language [and] political viewpoint” as well as its “graphic depictions.” Although the ALA doesn’t note specific challenges, we reported last year on incidents in Oregon and Illinois.
Just in time for Banned Books Week, the Cleveland, Texas, city council declined to act on a local pastor’s request that the public library remove all occult-themed books, including the wildly popular Vampire Knight manga series, from its young-adult room.
As we previously reported, Rev. Phillip Missick of the King of Saints Tabernacle Church addressed the city council on Aug. 12, demanding the “occultic and demonic room be shut down, and these books be purged from the shelves, and that public funds would no longer be used to purchase such material, or at least require parents to check them out for their children.”
He also complained about the decor of the Young Adult room, which includes a Sorting Hat and a figure of Dobby the Elf, both from Harry Potter, and a bouquet of dried roses. (We’ll get back to the roses.) Missick filed a formal Statement of Concern with the library, asking for the removal of five specific books, and he wrote a letter requesting a general ban on anything with an occult theme, saying, “As ministers of Christ, it is our responsibility to ‘watch’ and ‘warn’ against Satanic assaults against the hearts and minds of our children.”
This is Banned Books Week, the annual celebration of all the books that someone, somewhere, thought was objectionable — which usually means they make good reading. This year, the focus is on comics and graphic novels, and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is working with the other sponsors, including the American Library Association, to produce a number of resources for librarians and others, including a Banned Books Week Handbook; the organization has also posted a handy list of Banned Book Week events across the country (including this panel discussion, which I’ll be part of).
Library Card Sign-up Month kicked off Monday, with Stan Lee serving as its honorary chair.
An annual campaign of the American Library Association, it’s intended to remind parents, educators and children that a library card is an important tool to academic success. Lee’s image appears in print and online in public service announcements containing the quote, “The smartest card in my wallet? It’s a library card.”
“When you have a library card it’s like having a key to all the information in the world,” the 91-year-old creator says in a video (below). “When you have a library card, you can read anything about anything, and I have found that whatever you read, it doesn’t matter, it increases your fund of knowledge. So a library card is the ‘Open Sesame’ to all the knowledge in the world.”
In the video, Lee recalls as a child being a frequent visitor to public libraries first in Manhattan and then in the Bronx because he couldn’t afford to buy all the books he wanted to read. “Without libraries, I just wouldn’t have read as much as I did, so it would’ve been a great loss, to me,” he says.
A Texas minister wants the local public library to remove all books from its young-adult section that deal with supernatural romance, a genre that includes the Vampire Knight manga as well as the Twilight and House of Night novels.
According to the Dayton News, Phillip Missick, pastor of All Saints Tabernacle in Cleveland, Texas, addressed the city council during the public comment period of its Aug. 12 meeting. He also submitted a petition, signed by a number of local ministers, that he had circulated at the Cleveland Ministerial Alliance. He requested that the “occultic and demonic room be shut down, and these books be purged from the shelves, and that public funds would no longer be used to purchase such material, or at least require parents to check them out for their children.” However, at least two of the ministers who signed the petition have since backed off from it.
Missick was apparently referring to the Teen Room of the Austin Memorial Library, which, he states, contains 75 books about the occult, as well as “a demonic stuffed doll and a witch’s hat” (actually Dobby and the Sorting Hat from the Harry Potter books). He seems to be particularly concerned with books about vampires, or at least, that’s what local media have picked up on.
This year’s Banned Books Week, slated for Sept. 21-27, will spotlight comics and graphic novels, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the Banned Books Week planning committee announced today. Graphic novels have been the subject of a number of library and school challenges over the past few years, and the American Library Association’s most recent list of frequently challenged books includes, incredibly, Jeff Smith’s Bone.
Comics and graphic novels are somewhat more vulnerable to challenges because of their visual nature: While one would actually have to read To Kill a Mockingbird or The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian to find potentially offensive content, all a would-be guardian of morality has to do with comics is flip one open and leaf through the pages looking for Naughty Bits. That’s apparently what happened when the Chicago Public Schools attempted to remove Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis from classrooms; the move was based on a few panels taken out of context.
The public library system in Hertfordshire, England, has restricted who can check out graphic novels that are classified as “adult” — which includes not only mature-reader titles but also comics aimed at a broader audience, such as Batman and The Avengers, according to the local newspaper.
Often, these sorts of stories start with a parent who is outraged to find a child checking out or browsing adult materials. In this case, however, the issue was simply one of proximity: When Louisa de Beaufort brought her two children to the public library in her small town of Harpenden, she noticed that graphic novels of an adult nature were on the other side of the bookshelves that held children’s books. What’s more, mature-readers graphic novels in the adult section were shelved alongside tamer titles.
De Beaufort used her child’s library card to borrow not one but 10 mature titles, including The Boys, Crossing Midnight and Fatale, at a self-checkout station in the library. She then complained to the staff that any child could check out any book.
The deadline for the new Will Eisner Graphic Novel Grants for Libraries is fast approaching — any library that would like to apply has until Feb. 7 to turn in their applications.
The pair of grants were announced in December by The American Library Association and the Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation. The Will Eisner Graphic Novel Growth Grant will provide support to a library that would like to expand its existing graphic novel services and programs, while the Will Eisner Graphic Novel Innovation Grant will provide support to a library for the initiation of a graphic novel service, program or initiative.
“The Will Eisner Graphic Novel Grants for Libraries is a significant grant award that recognizes libraries for their contributions to the growth of graphic literature, sequential art, and comics as a literary medium. We are excited to give more opportunities to libraries to shape new ideas about graphic novels at their library,” said Carl Gropper, the President of the Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation, in a press release. “Will Eisner is recognized as one of America’s most influential comic artists. But this was not always the case. Will Eisner stayed true to his passion that sequential art served a wide range of needs. Today, graphic novels are one of the fastest growing categories in publishing and bookselling. These novels are more complex and varied in content than the comics that preceded them. They are subject to academic study, library and museum exhibits and prestigious literary awards.”
Columbia University Libraries’ Rare Book & Manuscript Library has acquired the archives of Kitchen Sink Press, comprised of more than 50,000 letters, plus 30 years’ worth of draft artwork and published and unpublished story ideas.
Operating from 1969 to 1999, Kitchen Sink Press published the work of cartoonists ranging from Al Capp and Will Eisner to Trina Robbins and Art Spiegelman. According to the library, publisher Denis Kitchen meticulously date-stamped virtually every letter he received, kept the envelope and even attached a copy of his own response.
“Apparently I am a natural-born archivist,” Kitchen said in a statement. “I will miss the rows of file cabinets full of handwritten letters, illustrated letters, and even letters that came out of devices called typewriters, all created before the digital age made traditional correspondence all but obsolete, but I hope they provide scholars with insights into the development of underground comix and the work of the multiple generations of creators I had the distinct pleasure of working with.”
A New Zealand library’s refusal over the summer to carry Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie’s Lost Girls has received renewed attention, earning a signal boost from Neil Gaiman and a stern denial from the National Library of New Zealand that it had anything to do with the move.
The story illustrates the strange and unenviable predicament of libraries in countries with censorship laws: If they submit the material for government review in hopes it will be cleared, they risk triggering a ban; however, if they don’t submit a potentially objectionable book, they risk later being found in violation of the law.
Here’s what happened in New Zealand: Over the summer, cartoonist Dylan Horrocks reported he had asked his local library in Auckland to purchase a copy of Lost Girls. The library refused, and he posted its response on his Facebook page:
Thank you for your suggestion to purchase ‘Lost Girls’ by Alan Moore. Due to the depictions contained within this graphic novel we have been advised by the Office of Film and Literature Classification that we may be at risk of prosecution if we made the book available to customers. As a result Auckland Libraries will not be purchasing copies of this title.
As it turns out, Stuff.co.nz reported this week, the library had purchased a copy in 2008, at a patron’s request, but removed it from shelves after concerns were raised about the content.
The Northlake Public Library in suburban Chicago unveiled its Hulk statue earlier this month to a crowd of more than 300. ^Trustee Tom Mukite, who joined the board specifically to spearhead the statue campaign, called the event the “largest turnout at the library ever.”
Mukite and the other trustees launched an Indiegogo campaign in April to make improvements to the library that included the addition of a Hulk statue to help attract visitors. According to the campaign’s page, “Today’s libraries are celebrating creativity, entertainment and life long learning, and they are doing it with technology and popular materials including graphic novels.” It continued, “We want to smash [libraries’] stuffy reputation with a 9 foot tall Incredible Hulk Statue.” In explaining why the Hulk is an appropriate decoration for the library, the campaign said, “Just as Dr. Bruce Banner transforms into the Hulk, we want our library community members to make their own personal transformations through books, programs, and awesome new equipment. […] The project will show off the fun side of the library and get the community talking. The Hulk will force patrons to look at the library in a whole new way.”
A library in suburban Chicago fell well short of its $30,000 fundraising goal to purchase graphic novels, a comics-creating station and a 9-foot-tall statue of the Incredible Hulk, but thanks to the generosity of a California businessman, it’s still getting a life-sized Green Goliath to call its own.
The trustees of the Northlake Public Library launched an Indiegogo campaign on April 26 in hopes of expanding its collection of about 2,300 graphic novels and manga, adding computer software and hardware, and buying a Hulk statue that might help attract visitors. “This larger-than-life literary character will become a giant green beacon of light to highlight our graphic novel collection, our creation station … not to mention the library’s sense of humor and whimsy,” the campaign description reads. “The project will show off the fun side of the library and get the community talking. The HULK will force patrons to look at the library in a whole new way.”
But with mere days to go, the Indiegogo drive has raised just $3,710; the statue alone costs in the neighborhood of $8,000.
A Nebraska public library has rejected a request to either remove Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s Batman: The Killing Joke from shelves or move the 1988 DC Comics one-shot out of the young-adult area.
“I don’t find it worthy of being removed from the shelf,” the Columbus Telegram quotes Columbus Public Library board member Carol Keller as saying at last week’s meeting.