Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Banned Books Week


Do you know what Captain Underpants, by Dav Pilkey, and Ulysses, by James Joyce, have in common? Both of them have been BANNED.

What does that mean? It means that someone, somewhere in the world, decided that other people shouldn't be "subjected to" the material covered in one of these books. Maybe they thought it was too controversial, too sexual, too graphic, too political, too radical, or it somehow disagreed with their personal core values. So they petitioned to have it taken off a library shelf in a school or public library, or to have it removed from a reading list for their children. That's what's called a "challenge." If someone in authority at that school or library, or someone in local government agreed with them, then that book might actually have been removed. That's called "banned."

The thing is, if there is a book to which someone objects, they have every right to refuse to read it; to restrict their children from reading it; and to tell everyone they know that they think it's an objectionable book. What they don't have the right to do is to decide, for someone else, what that person should be allowed to read. We can all make those decisions for ourselves, and for our own children. In this country (and in many others), freedom of expression is protected, and should be.

Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information, and the harms of censorship. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers — in shared support of the freedom to seek and express ideas, even those that some may consider unorthodox or unpopular.

If you would like to read one of those books, at right is an infographic created by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) with just some of the titles included in challenged and banned lists.

You can also check out our displays at Burbank Public Library to get an idea of which of your beloved books was considered too incendiary to touch. The next step from banning may be burning...the text of Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, is still relevant today and, ironically, this book that is a story about the banning and burning of books has itself been challenged, expurgated, or banned.  

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