Ever since the first books were written, someone has been trying to ban them. It is a centuries old struggle to preserve the freedom to read against forces that try to stifle the spread of knowledge. This is why the third full week of September is annually celebrated as “Banned Books Week.” A USA Today article summarized the history of the week.
Banned Book Week started 40 years ago as a celebration of the freedom to read but the librarian-led movement is shifting into the world of grassroots organizing as an unprecedented number of book-ban efforts have emerged around the country.
This past year marked one of the busiest years for book challenges in recent memory. Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom summarized the current situation in the article.
The number of challenged books hit an all-time high last year. with 729 challenges, affecting a total of 1597 books – nearly triple the number of challenged books in 2019, according to the American Library Association, which has tracked the annual number of challenges through media and voluntary reports since 1990.
“We’re now seeing efforts to remove books en masse. In the past it might be one parent challenging a particular book in a library and now we’re seeing organized groups take lists of books to boards demanding their removal,” Caldwell-Stone said. “Demanding that elected officials censor these works because they find them offensive, which is the very antithesis of democratic freedom to read, a real attack on liberty.”
Since most book challenges are local, it is important to support our local librarians by letting our elected officials know that the freedom to read is essential to democracy. Learn more about the topic through the USA Today article.