Once a year, the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom promotes Banned Books Week, a week that “spotlights current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools. It brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.” I wanted to share some of the resources I think are vital in advocating and fighting against book censorship, as well as encourage you to revisit, read, share, and think/talk about frequently challenged or banned books. And if you are unfamiliar with Banned Books Week or the ALA’s work fighting book censorship across the US, I’m happy to offer an introduction.
Please note: the following pertains to the American Library Association, and thus, book censorship in the United States. If your country has a Banned Books Week (or a similar campaign), please feel free to talk about it in the comments below.
Banned Books Week 2020 starts today, September 27th, and carries on through October 3rd, although the American Library Association receives challenges and reports of banned books throughout the year (the following quote is from the Banned Books Week advocacy webpage).
While books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available. This happens only thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, students, and community members who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read.
While more information, resources, and social media kits (to spread the word about book censorship) are plentiful through ALA and Banned Books Week, I want to highlight how you can get involved if you know of a book that is being challenged or on its way to being banned in your school, local library, or elsewhere.
In addition to anonymously reporting a Materials Challenge (books, movies, music, magazines, digital content), you can also report:
- Internet-related Challenge (filtering issues, access to computers, use policies)
- Library Service (meeting rooms, programs, author visits, exhibits, displays, hold shelf practices)
- Patron Privacy or Confidentiality Issue (personally identifiable information, circulation records)
- Hate Crimes (defacement of library property to target a specific group; use of swastikas or other symbols of intimidation, harassment or assault on library property)
- Other related materials or resources (student publications or performances, access to libraries or library cards, social media, artwork, “First Amendment Audit”) to the American Library Association.
You can do this by calling 1-800-545-2433 x4226, or filling out the online reporting form.
I urge you to take action if you know a book is being challenged, or if you come across restrictions addressed by the reportable categories above. And I also recommend learning about the work being doing in the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, and spreading the word about Banned Books Week.
- History of Banned Books Week
- Banned Books Q&A
- Most Challenged Book Lists from decades past (and the most recent 2019 list)
- List of Events over the course of Banned Books Week
- Banned Books Week on YouTube
So let’s celebrate the freedom to read, the ability to use books in addressing and discussing important topics, and advocating against censorship in our communities. You can learn about some of the frequently challenged or banned books from my own bookshelves here, and share a title of a frequently challenged or banned book that you’ve read below.