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A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy
Inside A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy

Banned Books Week

ALA’s Banned Books Week is the one week in the year when we seek out books that we think other people shouldn’t read and think of ways to prevent them from reading those books.

Because one should always think of the children, it’s best to begin with books that other people’s children should not be reading. An excellent place to start is school libraries. See: SpeakLoudly and Wesley Scroggins.

bbw Banned Books WeekDon’t forget to take things within a book out of context and highlight the “bad parts.” You don’t have to read the book yourself. There are websites that warn people what to look out for in books. If parents are being warned, why should the book be in any library? Act as if we all share the same common sense view of books, so of course everyone who has common sense and decency will agree to get rid of the filthy books. Just flip through the book looking for the words you don’t like. Ignore anything and everything that disagrees with you, whether it’s personal stories from people who actually read the book or professional reviews or blogs, or, well, anyone. People who agree with you are right, people who disagree are wrong.

Knowing what’s best for other people also extends to other adults and public libraries. See: Revolutionary Voices.

In putting up roadblocks to other people finding the books they need and want to read, be sure to always fall back on the following “but I’m not a book banner!” arguments:

It’s Still In The Public Library! Always a good argument when seeking the removal from schools. Even better if at the same time you are getting the book removed from school libraries, you are working at getting it removed from public libraries. See Revolutionary Voices.

It’s Still In The Bookstore! A perfect argument because hey, we’re not stopping you from BUYING the books! Go to the bookstore and buy it. What, your local bookstore doesn’t carry all books in and out of print? Go online and buy it. What, you cannot afford to buy every book you want to read? Not my problem. Get a job.

Wait, what?

Banned Books Week is about NOT banning books?

End sarcasm font.

Seriously speaking, being involved and being aware is important. Don’t think, this type of thing only happens in such and such a state. It happens locally. Speak up — let your libraries know how much you appreciate your library having a well-rounded collection with books for your entire community.

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About Elizabeth Burns

Looking for a place to talk about young adult books? Pull up a chair, have a cup of tea, and let's chat. I am a New Jersey librarian. My opinions do not reflect those of my employer, SLJ, YALSA, or anyone else. On Twitter I'm @LizB; my email is lizzy.burns@gmail.com.

Comments

  1. Thank you, Liz. This column is made of awesome, and the sarcasm font made me laugh.

    Book challenges do happen everywhere. A couple of years ago here in Westport CT a parent tried to get The Lovely Bones pulled from a middle-school library. The official protocol went into action, and the end result was an official, unanimous NO to removing the book from the library.

  2. Dawn says:

    Great entry! It cracked me up (though the subject still depresses me). -DE

  3. G1000 says:

    Funny post. Very clever. However, don’t forget about the dangers of “preventative” censorship, where libraries don’t buy edgy books because they fear the controversy. This happens a lot, and it’s far more subtle and dangerous than the type of censorship Banned Books Week tends to draw attention to. Regular censorship just encourages more people to read the book. With this other kind, nobody ever hears about the book, which is much more scary.

  4. Sondy says:

    Love it, Liz!

  5. Moira says:

    I find your post offensive, though I haven’t read it, only heard about it, and therefore I demand it be removed from the Internet, so it won’t offend other people, OR encourage people who agree with it!

    *cough*

  6. Deborah says:

    Very funny, EXCEPT- my library has several banned books displays up around the branch, with explanations as to what banned books week is, definitions of intellectual freedom, “wanted” posters with frequently challenged book covers, and explanations as to why these books were challenged. To count, I have had three comments already from patrons asking why the library is banning books. Sigh. At least they were upset by it.

  7. Angela Carstensen Liz B says:

    Susan, often the challenges don’t make the news and are not reported. Some libraries don’t want to be in the news, period, so will keep it as quiet as possible.

    Dawn, it is depressing. And scary.

    G1000, very true — the internal not buying. Or books being intercepted before being added to the collection. Or books being put in an older section. (CAVEAT on the last: sometimes that is censoring by “hiding” the books were teens wont’ find it, but sometimes it is putting the books were the teens look. I’ve seen teen sections be strictly middle school age). Or formal procedures not followed. Because it is a secret, and involves only a small part of the library staff, I’m sure there are many librarians who have no idea that happens at their library. And then there is also the issue of Big Bookstores not carrying books based on content/cover.

    Sondy, thanks!

    Moira, i bow to your brilliance

    Deborah, I had a reporter call me once asking why the library was banning books. I’ve overheard staff wondering why the ALA wants such good books banned. And I believe the AARP had a written article this past month that sounds like ALA bans books : http://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/inside-scoop/relax-aarp-bulletin-readers-librarians-do-not-celebrate-book-banning And yes — at least it gets people upset. Even though it does show a certain failure on our part to educate/advocate the public beyond those who “know” us.

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  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Liz Burns, Frumi Rachel Barr, Rocky Johns, Lois Taylor, Rebecca Williams and others. Rebecca Williams said: Banned Books Week « A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy: ALA's Banned Books Week is the one week in the year when we… http://bit.ly/bUQI1t [...]

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