Celebrate Banned Books Week
by Kathy Clarke
What do the Bible, (Carrier Ref. BS180.1611.N4) To Kill a Mockingbird (Carrier PS3562.E353) and Heather Has Two Mommies (ETMC Juvenile PN553h) all have in common? All are books that have been challenged or banned in a library.
Libraries collect books and provide their users with access to them. This is good, right? But sometimes individuals or groups take issue with books a library owns and makes available to library patrons. These issues can take the form of a challenge (a book is contested but stays on a library shelf) or an outright ban (the library pulls the book). If a book is removed from the shelf or if access to it is in any way restricted, then other users may not have the option of using that material.
Consider this: a student comes into her school library to find the Color Purple (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, 1983, Carrier Library PS3573.A425.T5) only to discover that a group has challenged and managed to ban the title because a challenge group labeled it “more smut than literature.” (Sova, 2006 p. 97). Who gets to decide what smut is? Now the student has no library access to the book based on someone else’s perception of what is “moral.” Libraries, publishers, booksellers, journalists and authors work hard to keep books from all viewpoints available to readers so that individual readers may decide for themselves what they chose (or not) to read. The freedom to read, to think and to decide for ones’ self is a fundamental cornerstone not just of these professions but of free people everywhere who embrace personal liberty as an ideal.
That is what Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read (September 26-October 3, 2009) is all about. According to the American Library Association, “Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them.” (American Library Association, 2009). Not just books, but plays, performances and films have been challenged on moral, political or social grounds as well.
What can you do?
American Library Association. (2009). Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read. Retrieved September 21, 2009 from http://www.ala.org.
Sova, D.B. (2006) Literature suppressed on social grounds. New York: Facts on File.