We have made it another year, and ALA, along with other organizations, is once again sponsoring Banned Books Week. There are already some cracks about how the abbreviation BBW means anything but Banned Books Week (go ahead, run the Google search and see what you find. I did.). There are also the usual detractors who say "no one bans books in the United States." True, overall, the United States government has not made a major move to ban books. However, the fact remains that a lot of people do challenge books, and that some books are removed from libraries (they may get put back on the shelves, but removal, or restricted access, does happen). These challenges usually take the form of some parent or "concerned citizen" who wants a book removed. Detractors usually fall back on parental rights, and when pushed, will argue back that "well, librarians censor all the time when they don't purchase everything." Actually, we call that Collection Development, and it is one of the things we are paid as professionals to do.
Let me make one thing perfectly clear. I have no problem with a parent deciding what their child should or should not read. That is their right and their duty. I am a parent. I make sure I know what my daughter is reading and checking out of the library. She does not go online without supervision. In other words, her mother and I put in the work that all parents should be putting in when it comes to parenting, which more often than not is not done by a lot of other parents. What I do have a problem with is other parents trying to decide what I read or not. Sure, detractors may argue, "but look, you can get the book on Amazon or other store." I sure can, but why should I be deprived of access to a book in my library, where I pay taxes as well, because one parent decides to challenge, and the library folds? Don't like the book? I have a simple solution for you: don't read it. Don't want your child to get a book? Don't let them have it. Do your duty as a parent and act accordingly. Don't come around trying to deprive others of access because you have a personal problem with a particular book. You have your right to make a choice. I have a right to make my choices as well. Your rights end where mine begin. It's as simple as that. I may not like Harry Potter (to pick an example of a commonly challenged book), but if that is your cup of tea, then go right ahead. And by the way, if you decide to challenge a book (or other material), at least have the decency to actually read it yourself before making your decision. Nothing will make me lose respect for you faster than you wanting to ban some book on hearsay and admitting you never read it. You read the book, and the book is not to your tastes or runs counter to your values? Cool with me. I understand not every book is for every reader. But at least make the attempt to be informed before you condemn a book.
And no, no one is making any claims here that things like porn should be accessible in libraries. Please use some common sense. This goes to those who say librarians are happy to let porn into their libraries. If porn is your thing, please do it somewhere private. Again, common sense.
Well, that is my two cents about Banned Books Week this year. My library will be hosting a read-out tomorrow. I am in the middle of deciding what to read for the event. I am looking forward to it.
In the meantime, don't take just my word for it on the issue. Here are some other people who are saying a thing or two about Banned Books Week:
- I can always count on the Annoyed Librarian. Sure enough, she takes on ALA's celebration here.
- From The Onion, get a bit of an amusing take on the issue. What's the big deal?, teens say.
- The Heretical Librarian is doing a series for Banned Books Week on authors that have actually been banned, threatened, etc. due to their writings. Here is his post on Faraq Foda. Feel free to go visit the blog so you can read the other items in the series as they come out.
- Amnesty International also has a page on Banned Books. From the site, "during Banned Books Week, Amnesty International directs attention to the plight of individuals who are persecuted because of the writings that they produce, circulate or read."
- Jessamyn West, of Librarian.net, has a post on Banned Books Week and union issues.