Banned Books Week

Sharing stories important to us means sharing a part of ourselves. Books reach across boundaries and build connections between readers. Censorship, on the other hand, creates barriers.

The books featured during Banned Books Week have all been targeted for removal or restriction in libraries and schools. The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 156 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services in 2020. By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship.

Purple and Green BBW logo

Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us.

Celebrate the right to read. The Goffstown Public Library supports your Constitutional right to access the information you want and hopes you will exercise that right by reading a challenged book. Visit the Library to interact with this week’s banned book displays, check out a book, or participate in one of the special activities on the calendar.

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.

Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2020 on YouTube

Celebrate Banned Books Week September 26 - October 2

Some people find the name “Banned Books Week” confounding. Banned Books Week doesn’t promote banning books, rather, it was created to alert readers everywhere that literary repression is still happening. Banned Books Week tips a hat to the continued 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 throughout 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 www.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. Since the 1990s, The American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom compiles an annual list of titles which have been most frequently challenged and/or banned (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.

Word cloud of reasons books have been challenged.

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.

The American Library Association has been tracking challenges since 1990, for more information, visit https://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks.