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Banned Books Week

Censorship limits exploration and creates barriers to access information. The path toward the freedom to read starts at the library. Learn more at ala.org/bbooks.

Did you know that 607 books, films, and newspapers have been challenged or banned in 2019? That’s a +14% increase from last year.

Censorship is a Dead End. Find Your Freedom to Read.

Over the years, the Library has celebrated the right to read with displays of banned and challenged books. Censorship is alive and well in the United States as evidenced by the hundreds of attempts to ban and challenge books across the country each year. Since the campaign began in 1982, over 11,000 books have been reported to the American Library Association as banned or challenged. We at the Goffstown Public Library do not support banning books. We support your Constitutional right to access the information you want and hope you will exercise that right by reading a challenged book.

Some people find the name “Banned Books Week” confounding. Banned Books Week doesn’t promote banning books, rather, its purpose is to alert readers everywhere aware that the struggle with literary repression is ongoing. Banned Books Week tips a hat to the continual vigilance and advocacy through which the number of challenged books far exceeds the number of books which are actually banned.

The origins of Banned Books Week lie in the 1982 Supreme Court (4-3) ruling in Island Trees School District v. Pico. The Court determined that the removal of books from a school library by a school board (in response to complaints about objectionable content) violated students’ first amendment rights by impinging on their freedom to read. The Court’s majority established libraries as places of “voluntary inquiry,” places which embrace the idea that there are no ideas so dangerous that they cannot be discussed or read about, even if many people find them unorthodox, unconventional, or distasteful. Protective covenants established in the Island Trees decision reverberated in public libraries, publishing, bookselling, and journalism. Candid dialogue between professionals in all of these fields led to the establishment of the coalition which created Banned Books Week. Their website is https://bannedbooksweek.org

Authors whose work has been challenged comprise a Who’s Who of the literary world while also making strange bedfellows; only in censorship would you find Stephen King, Harper Lee, L. Ron Hubbard, Toni Morrison, J.D. Salinger, Shakespeare, Danielle Steel, and William Faulkner keeping company. The American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom has compiled an annual list of titles which have been most frequently challenged and/or banned since the 1990s, which can be found at http://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks. These lists can be a reflection of imminent social sea change; eight of this year’s top ten banned and challenged titles feature LGBTQIA+ content. The ever-increasing popularity of e-books begs the question of whether censorship will become harder to defend against in future; while digital materials cannot be hidden, defaced or burned, it only takes destructive technological know-how, a software update or a power outage to render them inaccessible.

For those further interested in Banned Books Week, we suggest two informative videos on YouTube: Ask Me Anything About Censorship with Kristin Pekoll, geared towards adult public library patrons, and Banned Books 101, aimed at students in grades 6-12. As always, you can get more information at the Goffstown Public Library, or contact Director Dianne Hathaway directly through dianneh@goffstownlibrary.com.

List of Reasons for Challenges

What’s the difference between a challenge and a banning?

“A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. Due to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, students and other concerned citizens, most challenges are unsuccessful and most materials are retained in the school curriculum or library collection.”

Banned Books Week is an annual week-long event celebrating the freedom to read, highlighting the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community – librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types – in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.

The American Library Association has been tracking challenges since 1990, for more information: