Monday, October 1, 2012

Celebrate Banned Books Week!

Banned Books Week is one of my favorite weeks of the year. I love the sense of camaraderie it creates in the library--all sorts of customers stop to look at the display of library books that have been challenged or banned at some point somewhere in the country. More often than not, they recognize many of the books on the display as some of their favorites. "Why would someone have challenged/banned this book?" they ask; "It's so good!" Personally, I agree: many of my favorite reads happen to have been challenged or banned at one time or another. Go ahead, look at the lists of frequently challenged books; I'd bet you'll find some of your favorites there, too.

Our Banned Books Week
display
My library wholeheartedly stands behind the Freedom to Read Statement, and I am adamant that the statement applies to children and teens as much as it does to adults. Sure, it is still up to the parents or guardians to decide if a book is appropriate for their own children; but it is certainly not the place of the library to say what someone can or cannot read. I also like to consider something that Daniel Handler mentioned at ALA Annual this past June: while many great books may include moments of sex, rude language, diverse lifestyles, or any other number of things an individual may find objectionable, it is not those moments that make the book great. In fact, many young readers remember loving a book without ever really recalling those "objectionable" bits. They like these books because they are good books. End of argument.

And so I always make an effort to provide access to these fabulous books that have been challenged or banned--not because I think the lure of something racy will catch readers (although it sometimes does snare the reluctant ones)--but because I will go to any lengths to get great books in the hands of readers. If that means wrapping books with signage containing modified lyrics to one of the year's most maddening songs, well, so be it. Anything for a reader to fall in love with a beautiful story.

How do you celebrate Banned Books Week in your library? What are your favorite challenged or banned books? Bonus question: do you know why they were challenged in the first place?


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