This small library off the coast of Maine collects banned books | Smart News

A small library on Maine’s Matinicus Island is actively collecting banned books in a challenge to recent political efforts to remove controversial literature from library shelves and school curricula.
Public domain via Wikimedia Commons under CC BY-SA 4.0

A shed-turned-library in Maine’s most remote and isolated community is preaching tolerance by filling its shelves with the country’s most controversial books, reports Abigail Curtis for Bangor Daily News.

Located 22 miles off the coast of Maine, Matinicus Island is home to about 100 people, according to the Associated press (AP). In such a small community, a live-and-let-live philosophy is at the heart of the residents, says library volunteer Eva Murray. Bangor Daily News. That’s what makes Matinicus Island Library the perfect home for the country’s most contested literature.

Literary classics like Harper Lee Kill a mockingbirdby Margaret Atwood that of the maid and John Steinbeck Grapes of Wrath can be found on the library shelves, along with modern reads like Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson And the tango makes three. The library also hopes to obtain copies of Maus by Art Spiegelmann.

a small stack of books on a white shelf, topped by a copy of Tango fait trois

A display of banned books at Matinicus Island Library includes And the tango makes threeone of the most banned books in the United States.

Matinicus Island Library

American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom recordings attempts to remove books from libraries, schools and universities. According to the association, Kill a mockingbird was banned due to racial and adult themes. Grapes of Wrath was banned for its use of profanity and “inappropriate sexual references”. Meanwhile, And Tango makes three, based on a true story about two male penguins who raised a chick together at the Central Park Zoo, is one of the most disputed books in the country for its portrayal of a same-sex couple. Murray picked up a copy of the picture book on a recent trip to the continent, according to AP.

“We buy banned books in order to publicly push back the urge to ban books. Say, “If you don’t want it in your library, we want it in ours,” Murray says. Bangor Daily News.

On such a remote island, access to books has been no small feat for residents. Before the existence of the library, residents shared and exchanged books, had books shipped to each other using Maine State Library Books by Mail program or browse the island’s trash and recycling center for books discarded by their neighbors, by Bangor Daily News. More than 40 years ago, local teenagers even created their own short-term loan program.

Despite these efforts, the islanders eventually decided they needed a more formal library.

The Matinicus Island Library was founded in 2016, after Murray and a group of locals renovated an eight-by-ten-foot shed that a resident donated after no longer needing it, reports Bangor Daily News. The library has been granted non-profit status, and now the shelves are filled with field guides and donated books in good condition.

Thanks to grants from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundationa private Maine nonprofit organization focused on supporting community initiatives, the library added an attached shed in 2020. There, the children’s room opened last summer, much to the delight of children and their parents, reports Bangor Daily News.

The Matinicus Island Library does not have a librarian and is only run by volunteers who work at their convenience, Murray told the news site. Books are borrowed on an honor system and visitors write down the titles they borrow in a notebook. Even island tourists who accidentally bring books home have been known to return their novels, unprompted by the library, by Bangor Daily News.

The library stands out in an increasingly vocal and polarized nation when it comes to whether or not certain books should be banned. The American Library Association said it received an “unprecedented” 330 reports of book challenges last fall, more than double the total number of challenges from 2020, reported Elizabeth Harris and Alexandra Alter for the New York Times in February. Books are being attacked “at a rate not seen in decades”, they added.

According to New York Times. The targets of such censorship are usually books about race, gender and sexuality, Times reports. Many challenges stem from “the moral hysteria about protecting children”, writes Claire Armistead for The Guardian.

“The politicization of the topic is what’s different than what I’ve seen in the past,” said Britten Follett, chief content officer at Follett School Solutionsone of the nation’s largest college book suppliers, says the New York Times. “It’s driven by legislation, it’s driven by politicians who line up on one side or the other. And in the end, the librarian, teacher, or educator gets caught in the middle.

Despite this trend, a mission to collect forbidden books is uncontroversial on the island of Matinicus, per Bangor Daily News.

“We’re in a unique position to say, ‘We’re not banning books,’ and welcome people’s suggestions for books,” Murray said. “That’s the thing about starting a library [out here]. You can do good without having to ask for a lot of permissions first.


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