Banned Books Week is a an annual celebration of our intellectual freedom, “ the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction.” We, as Librarians, work hard to make sure that we maintain our subject “collections”, like Cooking, with modern sources and classics. We are dedicated to maintaining a diverse collections suitable for all people and view points. In collections like cooking, this is fairly easy. In sections like politics and religion, this is truly a challenge. Patron requests for materials make this easier.
September 15-October 1 is Banned Books Week.
From the beginning of the Great Experiment, Americans have struggled to define the limits of free speech. The conflict between free speech and censorship is a part of the fabric of our nation’s history. Some boundaries are easily agreed upon. Most of us would agree that yelling fire in a crowded theater or lying under oath are reasonable limits. Beyond that, Americans still struggle with their relationship to the First Amendment. Banned Books Week is a reminder to guard our first amendment rights and not take freedom of speech for granted.
Rarely, a patron feels a book should not be on our shelves. They feel it represents a particularly dangerous or immoral view point. Usually these individuals are concerned with the consumption of this material by children. This sometimes results in a material being challenged.
We, as librarians, work hard to make sure that we maintain collections that provide everyone with free access to diverse expressions of ideas. Libraries work to maintain diverse collections because we are dedicated to intellectual freedom.This has been a core value since the founding of public libraries in this country. In our cooking collections, this is fairly easy, but achieving diversity in sections like politics and religion, can be truly challenging for the librarian. Patron requests for materials help make this easier.
As hard as we try, not everyone will like or agree with all of the materials on our shelves. Someone might feel that a book or movie represents a particularly dangerous or immoral viewpoint or perhaps they may be concerned with the consumption of this material by children. It is natural for a society to look for threats to its existence and try to protect itself. but libraries do not maintain collections for one type of person and according to the ALA Library Bill of Rights, we believe that individuals have the right to select and consume information as they see fit. Furthermore, it is up to parents and legal guardians to select and curate materials for children in their charge. Libraries do not interfere with that relationship.
Patrons who strongly disagree with the appropriateness of library materials may choose to formally challenge these materials.
The American Library Association defines a challenged material as
“A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness. The number of challenges reflects only incidents reported. We estimate that for every reported challenge, four or five remain unreported. Therefore, we do not claim comprehensiveness in recording challenges”
Each year the American Library Association tracks these challenges and publishes the information. They estimate that for every reported challenge, four or five remain unreported. In honor of our intellectual freedom, we bring you the top ten most frequently challenged books of 2015. Do you agree or disagree with the challenges?
The top ten most frequently challenged books of 2015
1. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
2. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James
Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and other (“poorly written,” “concerns that a group of teenagers will want to try it”).
3. I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
Reasons: Inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint, and unsuited for age group.
4. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin
Reasons: Anti-family, offensive language, homosexuality, sex education, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“wants to remove from collection to ward off complaints”).
5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
Reasons: Offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“profanity and atheism”).
6. The Holy Bible
Reasons: Religious viewpoint.
7. Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
Reasons: Violence and other (“graphic images”).
8. Habibi, by Craig Thompson
Reasons: Nudity, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
9. Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, by Jeanette Winter
Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, and violence.
10. Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan
Reasons: Homosexuality and other (“condones public displays of affection”).