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Marshall receives attention in debate over two books

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The debate over the removal of two books from the Marshall Public Library has brought national attention to Marshall, particularly on the Internet.

The Comics Reporter, a magazine about world cartooning, published a piece on its Web site on Oct. 6, about the Oct. 4 public hearing. The Comics Reporter also published a number of follow-up pieces on the issue, including the Oct. 11 headline "Industry Eyes on Marshall, Missouri."

The Comics Reporter quoted Stephen Weiner, an author and comics expert, on the issue:

"Thanks very much for reporting on the library controversy in Missouri. It will be interesting to see how the Board of Trustees responds to the complaints. I commend this library for making the issue so public and inviting input. If they do decide to remove the book, though, they might be setting a dangerous precedent for several parts of their collection, not just graphic novels. I'll be interested to see how this one evolves, but at least I believe the process is a good one as opposed to the way the controversy surrounding Paul's Gravett's book, 'Manga' was handled, earlier this year. I should also note that I recommended librarians purchase 'Blankets' in my books, 'The 101 Best Graphic Novels -- 2nd Edition', along with about half a dozen other reviewers."

Well-known media Web site, mediabistro.com has also been monitoring the story, with entries in the "Galley Cat" section of its site. A recent story ran with the headline "Comic Fans, Censorship Foes Unite." Media Bistro first reported on the controversy on Friday, Oct. 6, with an article called "Missourians Press for Ban on 'Porn' Comics."

The issue also got the attention of the National Coalition Against Censorship, which sent a letter to the Marshall Public Library Board of Trustees.

"Removing these books because of objections to content is impermissible under the First Amendment. As the Supreme Court said in Board of Education v. Pico, the constitution does not permit 'officially prescribed orthodoxy' which limits what people may read, think, speak, or say. The fact that we are confronted with images and not words does not make a difference -- the courts have ruled that images, like words, constitute symbolic expression and are protected by the First Amendment," a portion of the letter reads.

An informal poll conducted over the weekend on marshallnews.com, the Web site of The Marshall Democrat-News, asked "Should two graphic novels be banned from the public library?"

The final tally was in favor of not banning the books, with 71.5 percent (216 votes) voting "no" and 28.5 percent (86 votes) voting "yes" in favor of the ban.

The authors of the books in question also took notice of the ban.

Craig Thompson, the author of "Blankets" sent an e-mail to The Comics Reporter after editor, Tom Spurgeon, sent him a link to the story in The Marshall Democrat-News.

"The article you sent gave me a good chuckle. Then I felt sad for all those librarians out there that have to put up with endless puritanical demands for censorship and risk their jobs by introducing a graphic novel or two to the book shelves."

A blog entry on "Fun Home" author Alison Bechdel's Web site included links to stories about the controversy.

While Bechdel declined to comment, a number of site visitors made their opinions known through posts.

"This discussion of banning any book is terrible. It's hard to believe we're having to listen to this. I live in Missouri now and it is a very lonely place for non-conservatives," a comment from "Elizabeth" said.

"Buck up, Alison! You're in good company. Bradbury, Joyce, Shakespeare, J.K. Rowling, et al," "Chris" commented.

"As a Christian, I find it very hard to understand why these people in Missouri are making such a fuss about your book," noted a Web site poster identified as "DSW."

"If they find it (offensive) they don't have to read it, and if they don't want their children to read it they should keep an eye on them, and make sure they stay in the children's section of the library. Censorship is hypocrisy, and hypocrisy is a sin.

"However, I am glad they have raised this issue, because it has given you publicity, and nothing will make their children want to read the book more than it being banned from the library to keep them from reading it. A banned book always interests people, and the kind of people who enjoy your work are not the kind to be put off by the protests of these extremists."

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Contact Zach Sims at marshallbusiness@socket.net

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