Sunday, September 28, 2008

Elect to Read a Banned Book

Classics like "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," "The Catcher in the Rye," and "To Kill a Mocking Bird," have been removed from some library shelves due to challenges made by patrons.

Since 1990, the American Library Association's (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) has recorded more than 7,800 book challenges. A challenge is a formal, written complaint requesting a book be removed from library shelves or school curriculum. About three out of four of all challenges are to material in schools or school libraries, and one in four are to material in public libraries.

It is thanks to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, and students that most challenges are unsuccessful and reading materials like "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," "Slaughterhouse Five," and the Harry Potter series remain available.

Challenges are not simply an expression of a point of view; on the contrary, they are an attempt to remove materials from public use, thereby restricting the access of others. Even if the motivation to ban or challenge a book is well intentioned, the outcome is detrimental. Censorship denies our freedom as individuals to choose and think for ourselves. For children, decisions about what books to read should be made by the people who know them best—their parents!

In support of the right to choose books freely for ourselves, please support Banned Books Week (September 27–October 4, 2008 ), an annual celebration of our right to access books without censorship. Banned Books Week commemorates the most basic freedom in a democratic society—the freedom to read freely—and encourages us not to take this freedom for granted. Banned Books Week reminds us that while not every book is intended for every reader, each of us has the right to decide for ourselves what to read, listen to or view.

America's public libraries are the cornerstones of our democracy. Libraries are for everyone, everywhere. Because libraries provide free access to a world of information, they bring opportunity to all people.
Support our libraries and help end the censorship of books.


  1. I don't have a problem with controversial books being in a library, but I do strongly feel that they ought to be kept in a special area rather than mixed in with the general collection. Furthermore, I feel that parental permission ought to be required for kids to borrow them. This could be done via a one-time blanket permission for those parents who are okay with granting their kids carte blanche access to the collection. For me personally, I want to be able to make the judgment call on a book-by-book basis. Harry Potter, fine; Golden Compass, not until my DD is older and has a better understanding of our family's faith.

  2. You made a good point parents should be aware of what their children are reading and have the final say about a child reading a particular book.

    I don't think I would put the onus on the library though. The librarians already do a great deal for very little money making them a nanny on top of that is a bit much. Until a child can drive somebody has to take them to the library that is the person who should oversee what books they check out.

    I also don't think they should be put in a 'special' section as everyone has a different idea of what should be banned.

  3. Our library uses a computerized inventory & checkout system. Children's cards are already flagged in the system because they have a different fee structure (free holds & interlibrary loan requests, lower late fines, etc). It would be very easy for the library to add a feature to check whether or not parental permission is needed to borrow certain books. If it is and the parent is okay with the particular title, then he/she could enter a code in addition to the one already required to check any books out.

    Once the system was updated with this feature, there would be little additional work for the librarian. The only thing would be to add new titles to the restricted list from time to time- either after a parental complaint, or if it's a new acquisition dealing with a sensitive issue. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that, say, a picture book about homosexuality like "King and King" or "And Tango Makes Three" is going to be controversial...


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