Banned Books Week
One of the issues I’d like to address is open access to knowledge. When this freedom is limited there are reduced chances of education and our free-thinking structure is compromised.
Last week the library system celebrated the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week.
Banned Books Week is the observance of one of the most basic freedoms of a democratic society, the right to read and access information freely.
Thousands of individuals and institutions across the United States participate in Banned Books Week each year, and it has grown into a premier literary event and a national awareness and advocacy campaign around censorship.
Did you know that in 2011 more than 300 books and materials were challenged in schools, libraries, and other institutions? Are you aware that every day there are people not only all over the world, but in the United States who are trying to censor not only what information you have available whether it be a book, internet website, or musical lyric?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary a censor is defined as a person who supervises conduct and morals. This freedom, not only to choose what we read, but also to select from a full array of possibilities, is firmly rooted in our American heritage.
Observed since 1982, Banned Books Week reminds us not to take for granted our precious freedom to read. According to the American Library Association, the freedom to choose what we read is an unalienable right due to the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
ALA notes that “challenges are not simply a point of view, but an attempt to remove materials from public use, thereby restricting the access of others. Even if the motivation to ban or challenge a book is well-intentioned, the outcome is detrimental”.
Some of the most commonly challenged books are To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, and The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemmingway.
A few of the most current books that are challenged are the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.
Without the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment, library shelves could be home to a far smaller collection than is currently present.
We are a free-thinking society but there are people who want to censor what others can say or do or read.
While most censorship ideas might be well intended, there is also the issue that censors could be afraid because knowledge is power and it promotes ideas. Look at other countries such as those parts in the Middle East. People are told what a leader wants to tell them and it is usually untruths, so they end up with a distorted view of the world.
We are so fortunate to live in America, a democracy, where we are free to read, disagree, and voice our opinions. We should truly appreciate how extremely lucky we are to have libraries and to be able to check out any book we choose.
Not all materials are intended for all readers, but everyone has the right to make their own decisions.