Celebrate the freedom to read at Nova Scotia libraries

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HALIFAX – Nova Scotians have several opportunities to celebrate their freedom to read this week at libraries across the province.

The 29th annual Freedom to Read Week is a national program that began Feb. 24 and runs until March 2, to highlight the importance of intellectual freedom and the dangers of censorship.  

"Freedom of expression and deciding for ourselves what to read, including the right to see, hear, and read diverse and dissenting opinions and forms of expression, is a fundamental right we must never take for granted," Leonard Preyra, Minister of Communities, Culture and Heritage, said Monday in a news release. "Censorship is not something any democratic society should tolerate, so having a week to reinforce these liberties is important."

Regional libraries under the umbrella of the Nova Scotia Provincial Library are hosting events that include reading series, discussions, and book clubs.

The Cape Breton Regional Library will hold a Freedom to Read café on Friday, March 1 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the McConnell Library in Sydney. Guest readers from the community will present selections from books that have been challenged by a person or group and talk about where, when, and why they were banned.

Members of the Bridgewater Library Inquiring Minds Book Club recently read Fahrenheit 451, a story by Ray Bradbury set in the future about a fireman whose job it is to destroy 'questionable' books.

It is not outside the realm of possibility to imagine a society where one is discouraged from expressing views outside the politically correct," said Deborah, a book club member.

The Thomas H. Raddall Library in Liverpool will have a display of banned or challenged books that people can borrow.

According to the Book and Periodical Council website, Canadian libraries received 101 challenges to library materials and policies in 2011. A challenge is an attempt to prevent or limit access to the material by having the material removed or restricted based on an objection by a person or group. The challenges, issued in six provinces, included books, e-books, DVDs, magazines, graphic novels, and websites.

"If someone can challenge a book in Ontario, and ask to have it removed from the shelf for insensitivity, then they could also challenge works by your favourite author, artist or singer," says Teresa Workman, communication coordinator for South Shore Public Libraries. "That is when it becomes personal and people start to realize why intellectual freedom is important."  

Freedom to Read Week is organized by the Book and Periodical Council's Freedom of Expression Committee. Since 1978, the Committee has worked with educators, librarians, and the community to provide information that addresses censorship in Canada.

For more information on the program, visit freedomtoread.ca .

For information on events happening at libraries across the province, visit library.ns.ca .

Organizations: Book and Periodical Council, Nova Scotia Provincial Library, Cape Breton Regional Library McConnell Library Bridgewater Library Inquiring Minds Book Club Thomas H. Raddall Library South Shore Public Libraries Expression Committee

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Sydney, Liverpool Ontario Canada

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