Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Banned Books Week

Better late than never, I guess. The annual celebration sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) began on Saturday and runs through the rest of this week. I abhor censorship in all of its forms and so I look forward to this celebration each year. We have a display of frequently challenged/banned books in our library along with lists that patrons can pick up. I particularly enjoy talking with the patrons who come in and are shocked to see certain books on the list. I hear the same things every year. "Why is this on there?" "That's my favorite book!" "I remember reading that when I was little." So, I strike up a conversation and talk about how usually well-intentioned people find something offensive in the books and take it upon themselves to try to remove the book so that no one can access it.

Don't get me wrong, there are some things that I would not care to read for various reasons (other than poor writing). I don't shock easily, but I know of a few books that I would probably pass on. However, I know that there are some people who may enjoy reading the very book that I may find offensive. It doesn't give me the right to attempt to keep those people from reading that book. When it comes to children, their parents are the only ones who should decide what is or is not appropriate for them until they are old enough to make those decisions for themselves. As a democratic society, we should never fear information. Banning books is just ignorant.

There's only one thing I wish ALA would change about this yearly celebration -- the name. You'd be amazed at just how many people think that we're promoting banning books because of the name. Yes, the name does get your attention, but some people don't get it. So, I spend a great deal of time explaining to people that we're promoting freedom to read -- not censorship.

Here are a few links for you to check out if you're interested.

ALA Banned Books Week

Banned Books Online

Amnesty International Banned Books

Banned Books and Censorship

Book Burning (Wikipedia)

Book Burning (Nazis)

Book Burning in the 21st Century


Rebecca Reid said...

I never thought "banned books week" sounds like we're sponsoring banning books, but I guess I can see that!

I agree, there are books I'll never choose to read, but isn't it great that I can choose to never read them?!

Lisa said...

rebecca, I know I would have never thought about it like that either. But, it never fails -- year after year I have someone ask me about it. There was one woman this year who was quite upset until I explained things to her.

Andrea said...

I also hate censorship and agree that only parents should censor books. My mom works at a small private school that won't allow students to read a lot of books. It drives me crazy whenever she mentions certain books being banned from their curriculum or library.

That's great that your library has a display! I think ours does too, but I didn't go this week so I don't know.

Lisa said...

andrea, it's pretty sad that people are so afraid of ideas that they attempt to ban books. Fear and ignorance are two of the biggest threats to our democracy. Banning books is just the first step on that slippery slope.