Monday, September 26, 2011

We're with the BANNED

“Congress Shall Make No Law Respecting an Establishment of Religion, or Prohibiting the Free Exercise Thereof; or Abridging the Freedom of Speech, or of the Press; or the Right of the People Peaceably to Assemble, and To Petition the Government for a Redress of Grievances.”—First Amendment

It's Banned Books Week 2011, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Banned Books Week is a celebration of the freedom to read: not only the freedom to choose what to read, but the freedom to select from the full array of possibilities. Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are rooted in the First Amendment. We are fortunate to have a greater quantity and availability of information than ever before, but we must all work to ensure that access to this material is not infringed.

Frequently a challenge is brought against a book out of the desire to protect children from material that someone finds objectionable, usually because the book contains language that is sexual, profane or racially charged. The desire to protect children is commendable. However, it is important that a parent make that decision for his or her own child, and that an adult be able to choose for himself or herself what to read. Banning or challenging a book isn't just someone expressing a point of view: it is an attempt to remove that book from the shelf of a school or library, effectively taking away your ability to make that choice for yourself or for your children!

In honor of Banned Books Week, we in the library have assembled a display of some banned and challenged books, from Huckleberry Finn to Harry Potter, from Twilight to I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. We invite all of you to stop by and have a look. Maybe one of your favorites is in there. Maybe one of your least favorites is in there, too. We hope that you will find the exhibit thought-provoking.

Do you have a favorite banned or challenged book? Come by and tell us! We also have a limited supply of Banned Books Week buttons. Pick one up and advertise your commitment to a free society that reads freely.

“If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. Were an opinion a personal possession of no value except to the owner; if to be obstructed in the enjoyment of it were simply a private injury, it would make some difference whether the injury was inflicted only on a few persons or on many. But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”—On Liberty, John Stuart Mill

“Only the suppressed word is dangerous.”—Ludwig Börne

1 comment:

Gilbert Ratchet said...

Don't you think this whole exercise is a little too self-congratulatory, an attempt by the ALA to stay relevant (just as the SPLC tends to find "hate groups" wherever it looks)? Academic libraries are one thing; public libraries are another, and surely they too have an obligation to adhere to certain standards of decency and propriety. That is, they should be willing to keep (say) Madonna's Sex book on a high shelf, and away from the children's section. But should I call up the local library and request such a thing, that would count as a "challenge" as far as the ALA is concerned. And even a successful request that the book be removed from circulation is not "banning" it. I don't think that would be a good thing, but for a book to be "banned" suggests that there is a federal law making it illegal to possess. Not having a book available in the local library is hardly a "ban." Really - when Hill Freeman deaccessions books, and sells them from the upstairs table, do you think you are banning them?