Banned Books Week: September 25-October 1, 2016
Every fall since 1982 the American Library Association (ALA) has celebrated Banned Books Week. This annual event was started by the Office for Intellectual Freedom, a division of the ALA which highlights threats against our freedom to access information and freedom of expression.
Every year books are challenged throughout the library world. According to the ALA Banned Books Week website, a challenge is “an attempt to restrict or remove materials, based upon the objections of a person or group whereas a banning is the removal of those materials. Some of the top reasons cited for the challenging of materials are, sexually explicit content, offensive language, homosexuality, objectionable religious views, nudity, racism and sexual education.”
Banning books is an attempt to assimilate everyone to a specific way of thing. Banned Books Week sheds light on several unconventional points of view and the importance of providing access to those points of views. Celebrating Banned Books Week is a way to stress that someone else’s personal taste or dislike should not impede others access to information.
Banned Books and Censorship
Banned Books Week also shines light on the issue of censorship. This issue goes against the general mission of libraries which is to provide resources and services that support the interests of the entire community that they serve. Censorship denies or withholds access which goes against that mission. In addition, the Library Bill of Rights of the American Library Association encompasses the basic principles that govern the services of all libraries and mandates that a library’s collection should be a reflection of the needs of the entire community that it serves and materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of the creator. The Library Bill of Rights also mandates that libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment. Hence, libraries have a responsibility to affirm these principles to defend our freedom of choice and thus our freedom to read.
The following excerpt from Walter Betts, President-Elect of the Texas Library Association July 14, 2015 address at the Hood County Commissioners’ Court meeting provides an excellent perspective on the controversy of challenging and banning library books:
“So what do you do about items in the library that you don’t like? Don’t remove or restrict them. Rejoice that they are there- because that means the items you cherish have the same right to be included in the collection.”
Think about how you can observe the 2016 Banned Books Week. Celebrate your freedom to read.