Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Libraries Celebrate Banned Books Week

This week libraries across the country are celebrating Banned Books Week. Displays are put together. Events are hosted.  Staff is readied to answer questions and discuss banned books. All this in the hopes of drawing attention to the attempts of censorship taking place throughout this country - a country that guarantees us freedom of speech, religion, and press.

Flag containing covers from 99 of the most banned books of 2000-2010,
 put together by The East Branch of Dayton Library
As a librarian I am proud to offer open access to a wide range of information and ideas inside the library walls and out in cyberspace. I highly value my right and your right as Americans to seek and find any information of our choosing, whether for education or enjoyment. I value the right of authors to express their own opinions and my right to accept or decline such opinions. Those that seek to ban books are infringing on these basic rights.

As I roamed the shelves pulling books for our library's display I was struck by the impact of banned books on all sections of the library. Can you image your library without Judy Blume, Roald Dahl, or Maurice Sendak? How about a library without Harry Potter, the Ingalls family or Winnie the Pooh? Could a library be complete without classic literature such as To Kill a Mockingbird, Gone with the Wind or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn? How about a library that doesn’t include a dictionary (banned at one point in California schools due to definitions of sexual terms not deemed appropriate for children)? Katherine Paterson, whose book Bridge to Terabithia has frequently been challenged for a multitude of reasons including that death is a large part of the plot, perhaps says it best in this quote: “All of us can think of a book... that we hope none of our children or any other children have taken off the shelf. But if I have the right to remove that book from the shelf - that work I abhor - then you also have exactly the same right and so does everyone else. And then we have no books left on the shelf for any of us.”

What a sad state libraries would be in if every book found to be offensive in some manner was removed from the shelf. How do we open our minds and the minds of young people without the freedom to express various ideas in books?

"A truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone." - Jo Godwin

This week is about generating interest. It is about opposing censorship. It is about getting people to think before they recommend a book be pulled from a library shelf.  Mostly it is about celebrating our freedom to read whatever we choose.

I urge you to support your library and their fight against censorship by visiting it this week and seeing how they are celebrating. You may also enjoy listening to the opinions of  several different authors participating in a virtual readout brought to you by bannedbooksweek.org.

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