Banned Books Week 2019
Banned Books Week is an annual nationwide celebration of the freedom to read, and takes place each September near the end of the month. The event is an opportunity to raise awareness of efforts, both past and present, to censor reading in schools and libraries, and is also a chance to further a conversation about First Amendment rights and obligations.
The American Library Association tracked 347 challenges over the past year, only 62 percent of which involved actual books. The chart below illustrates the breakdown of the challenges.
ALA noted an increase in challenges to book-related programming, displays, and databases. Recent examples include Leander Public Library’s decision this past July to cancel the appearance of an award-winning transgender author two hours before her event. The move, prompted by Leander city officials, is part of a general halt of the library’s public programming in the wake of highly-publicized pride events and related storytimes held at the library.
As more library content migrates to digital formats, challenges to database collections are becoming more common. Last October, a lawsuit was filed against Colorado Library Consortium for using EBSCO as a database provider. The parents suing the consortium alleged the database collections, which contain magazines alongside newspapers and scholarly publications, were providing students access to inappropriate content. The lawsuit was dismissed in March.
Challenges to book-related programming, collections, and displays have followed similar patterns to those made against books: they challenge themes related to hot-button issues; they are brought by similar demographics, notably parents and administrative officials; children are typically the target audience of the thing being challenged. And as with books, these challenges attempt to ultimately restrict the information access of others, which is why the American Library Association includes them as a part of Banned Books Week.
Top 11 Challenged Books
Every year ALA refreshes their list of the books most challenged in libraries across the country. As you can see in the graphic below, children’s and young adult titles exclusively dominate this year’s list.
Banned Books at HPULibraries
HPULibraries supports the freedom to read, and is celebrating Banned Books Week with a display of challenged books in Smith Library and several themed events.
Feel free to check out any items on display, and form your own opinions about this year’s banned books.
-Blog post by Jenny Erdmann, Head of Reference & Instruction