West’s library is a safe place for controversial books

According to the American Library Association's list of the most challenged books of 2015, the West High Library is home to some of the most complained about books in the nation.

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Junhee Lee

As of this Monday, the West High library officially contains some of America’s most controversial books.

Each year, the American Library Association (ALA) tallies formal complaints against books and publishes a list of books with the most. Of the ten books on the list from this Monday, five of them can be found on the shelves of the West High library.

According to Jill Hofmockel, one of the librarians at West, even these controversial books are integral to the library and readers.

Everybody wants a good story and everybody deserves a good story. One of the things about a lot of these books is that everyone deserves to find a piece of themselves in a story too,” Hofmockel said. “We are selecting materials for our library for everyone, for our school community.”

Even so, the library isn’t without a complaint policy. It is always an option for people to request reconsiderations of books. Although Hofmockel feels that reconsiderations are justified, she believes that there is more to a book than just one offensive scene.

“Very often these challenges take one scene or one sentence or one little small piece of a book utterly out of context,” Hofmockel said. “It’s just so sad to me how one little thing can get [in the way].”

Beth Belding, another librarian at West, agrees that having a controversial book isn’t an endorsement of obscenity, but rather a promotion of the deeper meaning.

“I think often the greater good in [a book] is something that we don’t isolate because it had nudity or violence or something like that. If there’s some greater piece in it, that’s why we’re recommending this,” Belding said.

The school library hasn’t received a formal resignation request in the last twenty years, a fact that Belding believes is reflective of the West High’s intellectual freedom.

“In high school you want people exploring ideas and thoughts and meeting people . . . that’s different from them or the same as them. Many of these books are real things that kids go through, and hiding it away in a cupboard isn’t an answer.”

For more information about the ALA’s list of most challenged books, click here.