If you’ve been around my articles for any amount of time you may have noticed my links to the organization called Banned Books Week. There is an actual week of activity and runs the last week of September every year. The campaign was founded in 1982 by prominent First Amendment and library activist Judith Krug in 1982. The idea is to highlight various libraries, be they school or town, that are withholding certain titles from the public for various reasons. They believe that the entire public should have access to whatever they’d like to read, and these titles should not be censored by any one group, religion or political. From wikipedia:
Banned Books Week “stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them” and the requirement to keep material publicly available so that people can develop their own conclusions and opinions.”
Seems so reasonable, doesn’t it? Then why is it so impossible for people everywhere to understand that whatever their tastes and ideals are, they cannot impose them upon others by denying them the right to read certain books, and to have them available at the local library? There seems to be an argument from some that there are other means with which to obtain books the library is denying to carry due to others pressure. They suggest the books are actually banned or unavailable to everyone because one can still purchase a copy if they want to read it so badly. People seem to forget that not everyone can afford to buy the latest hardcover at the price of 30 bucks, or have access to computers to downloaded a cheap version. This country wasn’t founded on the idea that the rich are allowed to read whatever, and the poor will just have to make do. Also, why should someone *have* to buy a book, when the library’s job is to supply the public with them? Naturally, not every printed title can be housed in a library, but if a title is suggested or recommended or under fire, the public should be able to request and be granted a copy of whatever book can be gotten, and allowed to be borrowed and read.
Banned Books Week’s agenda :
“Its goal is “to teach the importance of our First Amendment rights and the power of literature, and to draw attention to the danger that exists when restraints are imposed on the availability of information in a free society.”
One of the best things about banned books week is the list that is circulated of banned book titles across the country and all over the world. You read the list and scratch your head trying to figure out why on earth Alice in Wonderland would be considered too radical for China.
Some bookstores also play a big role during the week. Putting up posters in windows, inviting authors to speak whose work has been under attack, reading excerpts from books that have been questioned and denied access to, among many other inventive activities. This year marks a big addition to reading excepts from favorite banned books. A virtual ‘read out’ will be held during the week where anyone can shoot a video of their favorite banned book being read and upload it to a dedicated you-tube channel. This is a fantastic idea, and one that I intend to look into–the more people show their support for the attacked authors and titles, the less power the few will have over the many.
Naturally, there are people who dislike the idea of a group claiming that books are ‘banned’ in the US. They make a big point of saying nothing is removed from the library by the government, just restricted due to content. Several columnists in well known publications harp on this concept, that ‘banned’ is lying, no books are removed.
Wikipedia quotes Camila Alire, a former president of the ALA, saying Banned Books Week highlights “the hundreds of documented attempts to suppress access to information that take place each year across the U.S.,” and that “when the library is asked to restrict access for others, that does indeed reflect an attempt at censorship.”
Of course it does, and most of the time it is the lone parent out there protesting some book they don’t think is ‘age appropriate’ for their child. And instead of just keeping *their* kid from reading whatever bugs them, they want the offending tome removed so other parents don’t get the chance to deny *their* children the right to read it too! Now, how is this not banning a book? If the book isn’t available, it’s been banned.
Of course there are those fantastic watch dog groups that routinely find fault with whatever they deem morally corrupt. One of the more obnoxious is Focus on the Family. They have conniptions at the thought of a book about penguins of the same sex being read in school. Over time different people have been targeted in this country–various ethnic groups, colors, etc, for quite awhile now it’s been the gay and lesbians among us that are under attack. And naturally, Banned Books Week is just a pawn of the demonic gays, promoting gay sex to their children in schools and libraries without the parents permission! Focus on the Family called Banned Books Week, ‘anti family.’ Yes, Banned Books Week is anti family. How dare they want people of all ages, including kids, to understand whatever they want to, by reading books!!! Books, the devil’s playground–if the subject is anything other than what the Focus on the Family deems appropriate. Doesn’t matter if a group down the street, say, Focus on the Family Books, want access to the very titles the other group wants out. The restrictive group makes enough noise and trouble, for some schools and libraries it’s easier to give into the restrictive group than fight them. And that keeps books away from readers who want them. And that, is censorship, and yes, banning.
For more on Banned Book Week: