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Palahniuk's horse story among books, material challenged by library patrons

TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Oregon libraries reported only nine challenges to material during the past year. It was the lowest in nearly a decade.In early February, a library patron didn’t like a short story in Chuck Palahniuk’s “Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread.” He thought it was far too graphic for most readers and wanted Multnomah County’s Belmont Library to rate the book “X” — putting it out of reach for young people.

He also wanted it removed from the library branch’s “Lucky Day” shelf, where patrons find current titles and popular books that can be checked out each day without landing on a long wait list.

County library officials didn’t agree, acknowledging that Palahniuk’s book probably was not “for most readers,” but didn’t deserve to be rated “X.” The book stayed in normal circulation, and on the “Lucky Day” shelf.

Palahniuk’s response? Sort of a shrug. “No sweat about the ban thing,” he wrote in an email when asked about the book challenge. “I’d prefer not to know more. No comment, I guess.”

COURTESY PHOTO: ALLAN AMATO - Portland Author Chuck Palahniuk's response to a challenge of his book?  'No sweat.'“Make Something Up” was one of nine books and periodicals challenged this past year by library patrons across Oregon. That’s one of the lowest number of challenges in nearly a decade, as recorded by the Oregon Intellectual Freedom Clearinghouse, a program maintained by the Oregon Library Association.

Katie Anderson, youth services consultant for the Oregon State Library in Salem and clearinghouse coordinator, isn’t sure why there were so few book/periodical challenges between July 1, 2015, and June 30 of this year (the state’s fiscal year). Libraries voluntarily report challenges to the clearinghouse, so the group doesn’t know if the number is low because of fewer actual challenges or just fewer “libraries chose to report challenges to materials,” she said.

Library association members work with local libraries on ways to handle challenges, and other issues, so they could be getting better at dealing with patrons’ complaints, Anderson said.

“Our goal is to help library staff get better at keeping materials selection and reconsideration request policies up to date and using those policies effectively to select materials and assist patrons who express concerns about those materials,” she said. “We haven’t surveyed library staff so can’t say for certain, but informal conversations with a few library directors and other library staff indicate some are more comfortable and confident dealing with challenges to library materials.”

Finding merit

Besides Palahniuk’s 2015 collection of short stories, other challenges hit material in three public libraries and one school library. Patrons didn’t like the raw sexuality of Sam Taylor-Johnson’s video “Fifty Shades of Grey” (video was retained); the homosexual themes of Mark Millar’s “Chrononaut, Vol. 1” (book was retained); and the values expressed in David Laphman’s “Crossed” (retained).

All the challenges were outlined in the Oregon Intellectual Freedom Clearinghouse's four-page report published in late August. The report is used to bolster the group’s censorship fight and for annual Banned Books Week displays (Sept. 25 to Oct. 1).

Three of the challenges were to books and periodicals in Multnomah County libraries. In July 2015, a Woodstock library patron complained that children shouldn’t be given Bill Cosby’s “Little Bill” books as rewards in the summer reading program. The patron said the library shouldn’t offer books by “a rapist who to date has admitted in legal testimony that he drugs women to rape them.”

Katie O’Dell, the library’s youth services director, disagreed, pointing out that the county library system offers hundreds of toys, gift certificates and books as prizes to the nearly 100,000 children who participate in the annual summer program.

“The library entrusts parents to decide for their children what is best suited to them, given their personal family values,” O’Dell wrote to the patron, explaining the library’s decision to continue offering the “Little Bill” books. “While you may find the author of these books offensive, there are other families who may find merit in the content of the books themselves.”

Courtesy photoIt was Portland author Chuck Palahniuk’s 19-page short story “Red Sultan’s Big Boy,” that touched a nerve for a Belmont Library patron. The story revolves around a man who buys his daughter a horse, only to discover a very disturbing online bestiality video involving the horse.

The patron, whose name was not released, said the story made the book “not fit for most readers.” It should at least be rated “X,” the patron argued.

Library Director Vailey Oehlke told the patron in a late February letter that even though library staff comes across “materials with content we personally find distasteful,” she would not remove the book from general circulation because that would be “at odds with the library’s commitment” to intellectual freedom.

At the Kenton Library, it was the Portland Mercury’s October 2015 Oregon Cannabis Guide that prompted one patron to demand the alt-weekly newspaper be removed from the library’s free publication rack. The patron, who was with a homeschool group and “highly disagrees with pot being legalized,” told library staff that “this is not info that should be available to any age range to see or take. I find this very irresponsible.”

Oehlke told the patron that the library system wasn’t endorsing the information, but would not remove it from the branch. “While this publication may not be something you would seek out, it is very popular with many of our patrons and they expect to find copies in our libraries,” she wrote.


2015-16 library challenges in Oregon

Fifty Shades of Grey by Sam Taylor-Johnson (video)

Objection: 1. Sexual (sexually explicit) 2. Values (anti-family)

Type of library: Public

Decision: Retained

Artichoke Talesby Megan Kelso (book)

Objection: Sexual (unsuited to age)

Type of library: Public

Decision: Unknown

The Brimstone Journals,” by Ronald Koetge (book)

Objection: 1. Sexual (unsuited to age) 2. Values (violence)

Type of library: School

Decision: Retained

Chrononaut, Vol. 1” by Mark Millar (book)

Objection: 1. Sexual (homosexuality) 2. Values (religious view)

Type of library: Public

Decision: Retained

Crossed” by David Laphman (book)

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

Type of library: Public

Decision: Retained

Five, Six, Seven, Nate! by Tim Federle (sound recording)

Objection: Sexual (unsuited to age)

Type of library: Public

Decision: Retained

Little Bill by Bill Cosby (book)

Objection: Other (criminal charges against author)

Type of library: Public

Decision: Retained

“Make Something Up: Stories You Cant Unread” by Chuck Palahniuk (book)

Objection: Sexual (sexually explicit)

Type of library: Public

Decision: Retained

Oregon Cannabis Guide,” insert in The Mercury, by Marjorie Skinner (newspaper)

Objection: Social issues (drugs)

Type of library: Public

Decision: Retained


The Top 10 most challenged books nationally in 2015

1. “Looking for Alaska” by John Green

2. “Fifty Shades of Grey” by E.L. James

3. “I Am Jazz” by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings

4. “Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out” by Susan Kuklin

5. “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” by Mark Haddon

6. Holy Bible

7. “Fun Home” by Alison Bechdel

8. “Habibi” by Craig Thompson

9. “Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story From Afghanistan” by Jeanette Winter

10. “Two Boys Kissing” by David Levithan

Source: www.bannedbooksweek.org/node/9417