Forbidden book furore
Banned book up for review by libraryDANIELLE STREET AND SIMON DAY
The only book ever to be banned from Auckland Libraries is being reviewed for reinstatement into the collection.
Controversial graphic novel Lost Girls is under the spotlight after library members requested it be bought for the collection.
The Central City Library held a copy of the comic in 2008 and quickly pulled it off the shelves following counsel from the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC).
"Their advice at the time was that if we had the book and it was later banned then we might be liable for prosecution," collections manager Louise LaHatte explains.
"If you knowingly hold and make available an objectionable work there are substantial fines and even prison sentences, so it's not a light matter."
The only other New Zealand library known to have held a copy is North Shore Libraries, also in 2008, before the council amalgamation.
Auckland Libraries purchases more than 500,000 books each year and never sends them to the censor.
Unlike films, books get classified only if someone thinks they are offensive and demands they be checked.
Lost Girls has never been submitted to the OFLC for classification.
The comic was written by renowned English author Alan Moore and illustrated by his wife Melinda Gebbie.
The three-volume book has Wendy, from Peter Pan, Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz and Alice from Alice in Wonderland meeting as adults on the eve of World War I.
They talk through their sexual experiences and discuss violence and drug use.
Auckland-based comic artist Dylan Horrocks says the library may be unaware of the tome's weight in the graphic novel world.
"They [author and artist] are two very significant creators doing a very personal work that they took very seriously as a personal and creative and political statement," he says.
Mr Horrocks was among those who requested the book be bought back into the library's collection.
"It is a challenging work. But part of the role of libraries is to make work that is challenging available to people that wouldn't otherwise be able to access," he says.
He has ignited a social media discussion on information freedom versus censorship. The conversation has gained international attention from media sites in the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom.
"It is fantastic the discussion is happening out there," Ms LaHatte says.
"Our collection development policy, which is on our website, has as one of its principles that we are committed to the freedom of information and that has to be balanced with compliance of New Zealand legislation."
The library has received advice from the OFLC and the Department of Internal Affairs that it will use to inform decision-making.
Library managers are due to meet next month to review the book's reinstatement.
Visit aucklandlibraries. govt.nz to read the policy on collection development.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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