Banned books! What does that really mean? This book was challenged by… Again, what exactly does that mean? I thought we lived in a free country. I thought everyone had freedom of choice. If these truths still hold evident, then why are books still being banned in the USA in the 21st century? What does it actually mean to BAN A BOOK ANYWAY?
As the ALA’s annual Banned Books Week approaches (Sept 26-Oct 2), I thought it would be best to clear the air about this often confusing and highly celebrated week!
First off, I thought it would be best to define terms like “banning” and “challenging” since these terms often create confusion. A challenge is defined as an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group; a banning is the removal of those materialsi. Since we DO live in a free country in which the government does NOT restrict the free rights of citizens to read, purchase, and publish literature (unlike some other places in the world in which literature is highly monitored by the government), works of literature CANNOT be completely cut off from citizens who wish to read such works. However, books can be challenged or banned by local groups who wish to restrict access of such material to others.
Now, most of you in education or those of you who work in the world of information literacy have probably heard all of this before (and many of you are probably tired of hearing it). This may surprise some of you, but I strongly believe that the entire purpose of Banned Books Week is not just to raise awareness of banned or challenged books in our society, but to advocate for intellectual freedom!
Instead of focusing on the books that have been “restricted,” “challenged,” or “made inaccessible,” I believe we should draw attention to all the rights that we enjoy as citizens of a free society living in the information age. As librarians, educators, writers, readers, and booksellers we should celebrate the fact that we have the freedom to seek out all kinds of information and a wealth of free resources available at our fingertips! Just as American public libraries were originally established in this country as a means for all peoples to receive a free education regardless of their background, so today your local public library is available to satisfy all your information/educational needs!ii
So please, visit your library today! Do some research, investigate their resources, and enjoy their free classes/offerings! Check out and read a banned or challenged book! I’ll even let you in on a little secret. Whenever a book gets banned or challenged, lots of attention is drawn to that book, and as interest in that book grows, the circulation counts and sales of that book increase! Most banned or challenged books end up becoming best sellers within months! Imagine that…freedom to read in action!