“Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.” —Article 3, Library Bill of Rights
It’s difficult to imagine a world without F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye or John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. These classics have several things in common: they form the foundation for many high school English classes across the United States, they continue to influence generations of readers around the world and they have been the target of unrelenting censorship for the past century.
These three novels are only a few of the many books challenged by censors over the years who did not want their communities influenced by the ideas presented in them. Some books were challenged by schools as being unfit for minors and others have been banned by national governments. William Golding’s Lord of the Flies faced a complaint at an Owen, NC high school because it was “demoralizing inasmuch as it implies that man is little more than an animal.” Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was unsuccessfully challenged at Warren Township, IN schools for “psychological damage to the positive integration process ” and because it “represents institutionalized racism under the guise of good literature.” Copies of Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises were burned in a huge Nazi bonfire in 1933.
Considering how influential these works of literature have been on modern thought, it is frightening to imagine what our world would look like if censors had succeeded in eradicating these books altogether. What would life be like if the only books we had access to were the ones that authorities deemed “appropriate?” After all, who gets to decide what is “appropriate?”
Twin Hickory Public Library, Glen Allen, VA [from boingboing.net]
Banned Books Week
In response, the American Library Association (ALA) established Banned Books Week in 1982 to celebrate the freedom to choose and express any opinion, no matter how unorthodox or unpopular. For the past 28 years, libraries across the country celebrate annually by setting up displays of banned books, facilitating community discussions about censorship and creating interactive events for patrons to celebrate the freedom to read.
Many of our libraries celebrate Banned Books Week as part of their own September Project. Last year Campbell County Public Library System, in rural Virginia, featured an awesome display of Banned Books from the Long Island Coalition Against Censorship exhibit. Goffstown Public Library in New Hampshire, along with a Banned Books exhibit, held a “Create a Poster” contest for young adults to celebrate and appreciate American rights. They also awarded free copies of banned books to winners of their daily Banned Books Quizzes. Multnomah County Library in Portland, Oregon featured author and lawyer Steven T. Wax as the guest speaker in their forum, Cafe Banned: Celebrating the Freedom to Read.
This year, Banned Books Week will be September 26- October 3. We encourage you to host Banned Books events at your own library (you could even turn it into a month-long celebration), and we hope you will share your ideas with us! We’re very excited to hear about all of the fun and exciting new ideas you will incorporate Banned Books Week into your very own September Project!