Librarians like to hold up the banner against censorship, talking about something called “freedom to read.” There’s even an American Library Association site devoted to the Freedom to Read Foundation. In fact, the ALA’s “Banned Books Week” concluded Oct. 4.
So what happens when libraries actually have to deal with a banned book?
There are very few books that can be described that way in 2008, but I’ve found one. It’s a new book, “The Jewel of Medina” by Sherry Jones, an historical novel about one of the Prophet Mohammed’s wives, Aisha. Random House was supposed to put it out, but dropped it after protests from Muslims. It’s been published in this country by Beaufort Books. Muslim literary critics have firebombed the house of the British publisher.
Are local libraries rallying behind the book?
Well, it depends on the meaning of “local.”
A search on CLEVNET, a local library network, reveals that the Cleveland, Elyria, Shaker Heights, Lorain and Cleveland Heights libraries have duly ordered copies, although none have reached the shelves yet. The Sandusky, Huron and Bellevue libraries, CLEVNET’s local members, have yet to order a copy of the book, CLEVNET says. Cuyahoga County’s public library, currently campaigning for a levy, doesn’t list the book in its online catalog.