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Kannapolis Library celebrates controversial reading materials

By Joanie Morris
For the Salisbury Post
KANNAPOLIS — Stirring up trouble seems to follow some books wherever they go, whether it’s the shelves of a library in Los Angeles or even a small town like Kannapolis.
Employees and patrons of the Kannapolis Branch of the Cabarrus County Library participated in a “Read Out” on Tuesday evening, and other days the library is opened this week will provide entertainment in the form of movies.
The point of the events is to bring awareness to Banned Book Week, which celebrates the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if they are unpopular.
On Tuesday, library employees were dressed as characters from banned books — Carrie and Waldo checked out patrons while a police officer re-shelved books. Jessica Reid, a library assistant dressed as Carrie from Stephen King’s iconic horror story, explained why the library was hosting the events this week.
“We’re celebrating the rights for people to be able to choose what to read,” said Reid, citing the first amendment of the Constitution.
While no books are banned or challenged at the Kannapolis Library, across the nation, books have been challenged and banned for myriad reasons — most notably for being sexually explicit, containing offensive language and for being “unsuited to any age group.”
It came as a surprise to several patrons to hear that Where’s Waldo? — a picture book featuring a tall young man dressed in candy cane stripes with a red and white striped watch cap — was once banned or challenged by groups in the United States.
“Apparently, in one of the original (books) there was a topless sun bather,” said Reid.
Her colleague, Christie Smith, was dressed as Waldo (but in a skirt).
The library has a list of the banned or challenged books, and several tables displaying the books — showcasing everything from “The Diary of Anne Frank” to “Captain Underpants.” There was also a binder containing a partial list of books and reasons they were banned or challenged at the library desk. Most recently, books such as the Harry Potter series and even Shel Silverstein’s “A Light In the Attic” were challenged.
“We’ve been really pleased with the response,” said Reid.
While only two people showed up to Monday’s movie showing of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” — and crowds were sparse not long after 5 p.m. when passages from banned or challenged books were read on Tuesday — she said patrons have been checking books on the list out to discover why they were banned or challenged. This is the second year of the weekly events at the Kannapolis Library.
“As a parent, you have the right to choose what your kids read,” explained Reid.
By hosting the events, she said the library brings awareness to the issues surrounding censorship. “We don’t feel like anyone has a right to encroach on that (parent’s) right.”
Other events planned for this week include movie showings tonight and Thursday beginning at 5 p.m. and on Saturday at 12 p.m. Movies include “Fahrenheit 451,” “The Wizard of Oz” and “Gone With the Wind.” In addition, patrons will be able to check the banned books out whenever they like, as long as they are available.
“For ‘Anne Frank,’ all our copies are out,” said Reid. Many weren’t even aware books like that were once banned or challenged.
For more information on any Kannapolis Branch of the Cabarrus County Library event, visit http://www.cabarruscounty.us/government/departments/library/kannapolis-library/Pages/ default.aspx .
Joanie Morris is a freelance reporter for the Salisbury Post. Contact her at 704-797-4248 or news@salisburypost.com.

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