Stocking ‘Mein Kampf’ not a struggle for area libraries

Alicia Lozano, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Some books are considered more controversial than others. James Joyce’s “Ulysses” was declared obscene and banned from the United States for 15 years. Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” was removed from reading lists across the nation for perceived racist tones.

Both are now considered great works of literature and often required reading for students.

But what about Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”? Should history as recent as the Holocaust dictate that the autobiography and political treatise be removed from bookshelves?

No, says the Arlington Public Library system, which recently acquired a new copy of the book after three were removed from its catalog. Two copies were lost and one was in poor condition, says library spokesman Peter Golkin. It was merely time to replace those.

“We try to have a wide range of information available to the public,” he says.

Most libraries carry the 1926 book: Fairfax has 25 copies, D.C. has nine, Alexandria has two and the Falls Church library has one, according to the Sun Gazette.

“One person’s controversy can be not a controversy for someone else,” Golkin says. “Part of our mission at the library is to provide access to information and sometimes that information is historically unpleasant.”

No one has complained about Arlington carrying the book, and, in fact, the copies are checked out regularly, according to Golkin.

“People who use the library know that we have all sorts of information for use and they take pride in that,” he says.

During Banned Book Week, the library often displays titles that once caused the most ruckus. When looking at the list, Golkin finds works as varied as the people who love, and hate, them.

“Certain titles that have been beloved have been controversial in certain places,” he says. “Books that people don’t think of as controversial have sparked debates in some communities. It can literally be anything. Any title can be controversial to someone.”

Germany banned publishing new copies of “Mein Kampf” more than 60 years ago. In 2015, copyrights of the book will enter the public domain, spurring a debate over whether to lift the ban.

In the U.S., the book is easily found in most bookstores and libraries. That’s unlikely to change and Golkin thinks it’s a good sign.

“The U.S. Constitution guarantees certain freedoms and, knock on wood, those freedoms will remain for a good long time,” he says. “The Constitution and freedom of speech are paramount in our society and libraries honor that.”

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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