The small library in Council Bluffs specializes in banned books

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) — Sorensen’s Forbidden Books Library is open at 58 Cottner Drive.

A surprise gift for Chris Sorensen’s 50th birthday, the small free chartered library and the books inside are made available to the public free of charge.

“The idea is amazing,” Sorensen told Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil. “There really is no greater gift you can give someone, especially if it’s a book you’ve read and loved. There really is something special about it. .

All books in the library are selected from lists that various groups have tried to ban from other libraries, Sorensen said.

He loves to read and is passionate about sharing books, especially the stories that people have tried to silence in the past.

“It’s important to show people that there’s another side to the story, there are people who don’t believe these books are banned,” Sorensen said. “And, to some extent, it’s a bit of resistance against those who would like to ban books or ask for books to be banned from public or school libraries.”

Sorensen’s favorite title, “Fahrenheit 451,” is one that often appears on banned book lists. The story’s main character is a firefighter, like Sorensen, except Ray Bradbury’s Dystopian Future depicts firefighters as those who start fires and don’t put them out.

“It’s alarming when your favorite book is out there,” he said. “I was really excited when it was one of the first books to disappear from the library.”

Sorensen is convinced that no book should be banned. He doesn’t believe a book is bad, or necessarily all good.

“I think it’s important to have them available to share,” he said. “Often times groups of people are banned just because they showed up on a list that someone thought didn’t fit their political agenda. Banning a book without reading it and knowing what’s in it find… I think there are thoughts that can be used in any book to develop your own thoughts and your own growth.

Sorensen called the unique gift a “total surprise,” presented to him at a law school graduation celebration for his daughter Alyson.

“Several of my friends and family gave me gifts that were books,” he said.

A website had been set up with a list of suggested titles, and many selected their favorites to send to the Sorensen house.

“Receiving a whole bunch of books all at once from friends and family members — knowing that those books they donated had meaning to them — it was really special,” Sorensen said.

Alyson said the idea stemmed from a running family joke. They often laughed that every time someone gave Chris a book, his wife and the children’s mother, Megan, complained about the growing library in the basement.

“We were thinking a lot about the news from last year, censorship in public and private schools across the country,” Alyson said. “Thinking of Dad, his love for reading and his love for ideas, it seemed quite natural that finding a way to buck this trend would be a great gift for him. Dad loves nothing more than connecting with people through books and bringing people out of his community.

The family ordered a Little Free Library kit online and Megan created a private Facebook event, inviting friends and family to join in the giveaway with book donations.

“We’ve linked up with a few of our favorite stores and encouraged people to write a note in those books so Dad can flip through all those people who share his love of reading,” Alyson said.

“It was a fun thing to do,” Megan said. “People came up with some really great ideas that weren’t on the list.”

Sorensen also received a personalized stamp, so every book circulating in Sorensen’s Forbidden Books Library carries a piece of it.

“Ideas matter and it only takes one person to protect ideas,” Alyson said. “In my life, if there is going to be one person to protect ideas, it will be Dad. The library is in the front yard where Dad can help make sure the neighborhood kids, or people passing by, have access to books.

Since the Banned Books Library opened last month, Sorensen said he has seen books come and go. He noticed that new books have also been added.

“It’s here, and please use it,” Sorensen said. “If you find something you like, pick it up and read it. You can even leave me a note at the library and tell me what you thought of it, if you want.

Books can be picked up or dropped off as readers choose. They can be returned, but it is not mandatory.

“I’d rather they keep it or share it with someone else who they think would like to read this book,” he said.

Colin L. Johnson