Banned Book Week

censorship.pngThis year the American Library Association (ALA) has deemed the week of September 22-28 to be Banned Books Week. According to the ALA website:

"Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community -- librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types -- in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.

By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship." (Get more info at: http://www.ala.org/bbooks/bannedbooksweek)

The lofty goals of this movement are very noble. Censorship is a huge issue that needs to be discussed more openly and this week brings a lot of awareness.  That said, in my opinion, talking about banned books can quickly become very dramatic. The concept of Banned Books Week seems somewhat outdated. Although books are challenged in isolated incidents on a regular basis, the reality of our society is that it is very hard for a title to actually be banned.

My doubts aside, I decided to put up a display at my library to highlight titles that have historically been challenged or banned. Using bright yellow paper I made signs that say "Banned," "Censored," "Challenged," and "Forbidden" and put them in front of books have have ever faced resistance. My goal in selecting titles was to shock patrons by choosing books they might not know had ever been considered controversial. This wound up being much more successful than if I had taken another route and purposely chosen scandalous titles to highlight.  My goal was to make a point about classics being challenged, not to highlight more controversial books.

challenges.pngThe display was much more successful than I had anticipated and actually provoked conversations with patrons! Many people were shocked at some of the titles on display. We discussed how our views have changed over time and the importance of access to books and information, I felt like an important dialogue was started. I'm very pleased that the simple book display went better than expected, bright yellow paper goes a long way!

A coworker and I discussed the possibility of the library hosting a forum or discussion about intellectual freedom and censorship after seeing how interested patrons were in discussing the display. I'm not sure if or when that will happen, but I love that part of my job involves engaging the public to think about censorship.

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