News / Edmonton

Edmonton library deals with regular challenges to pull items from shelves

The Muppets, Maxim Magazine and Eminem might not seem like they have a lot in common, but they have all been targets of irate library patrons looking to have them pulled from the shelves.

Since 1998, the Edmonton Public Library has had a formal process for people looking to have books or other materials removed from the library. For Eminem it was offensive lyrics that drew fire, while Maxim’s portrayal of women was the issue. And for the Muppets, it was their film Muppets Wizard of Oz that drew a patrons ire, because it portrayed the destruction of a house by a tornado.

Pilar Martinez, the library’s deputy CEO, said when a customer has such an objection they always start by talking about the issue with staff.

“There is always a conversation with a staff member or a manager about the importance of intellectual freedom,” he said.

Martinez said if the conversation with staff doesn’t resolve the issue patrons are encouraged to fill out a form listing their objections so staff can review the issue.

“They look for reviews, they do some research on when they got the item,” he said.

Martinez said only one customer complaint has lead to a book being removed, which was an out of date haircutting manual. She said in that case it is something staff would have eventually removed anyway, but generally they lean heavily towards intellectual freedom.

“Our role in the community really is to provide a diverse collection that represents the various viewpoints in our city and in our society,” she said.

The Canadian Library Association, tracks the challenges nationally as well and Alvin Schrader, who works on the issue, said they hope to be able to help libraries with what can be difficult issues.

“It’s important to be able to share that information and learning from our colleagues on how they have handled challenges,” he explained.

He said there are no real national trends and most books only receive one challenge.

“Almost anything is fair game for people, because a lot of this is in the eye of the beholder.”

Controversial books

All of the following books have been challenged at one time or another at the Edmonton public library.

Boy o Boy – by Bryan Doyle

-    Challenged for discussions of molestation and homosexuality

September, 1999 Rolling Stone

-    Challenged for nudity on the cover

The Second Gates of Paradise: The anthology of Short erotic fiction

-    Challenged for being erotic fiction

Good Families Don’t by Robert Munsch

-    Challenged for discussions of flatulence

Lonely Planet – Video travel guide to Amsterdam

- Challenged for showcasing marijuana and prostitution in the city.

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