Celebrate Banned Books


In a past position as a high school librarian, I entered my office one day to find an art history book on my desk opened to a photograph of a nude statue. Confused, I simply put the book back on its appropriate shelf only to have it reappear on my desk later in the week. This happened 2-3 times before a teacher finally confronted me and shared her feelings that she felt the book was inappropriate for a high school collection. I calmly explained the reason for the book being in the collection and of course the book stayed in our collection. Fortunately, she understood and did not take the matter any further.

However, billions of people live in this world and there are as many personal beliefs and there are bound to be conflicts. For instance, one patron at the Toronto Public Library believed and voiced his concern that Dr. Seuss’ classic “Hop on Pop” “encourages children to use violence against their fathers.” The book was fortunately retained. Another classic by Dr. Seuss was more understandably challenged. “If I Ran a Zoo” was challenged yet retained at a Vancouver library for the line about helpers “who all wear their eyes at a slant” which was accompanied by racial stereotypical illustrations of Asians. The library did decide not to use the story during storytimes or promote it in any other way other than a historical portrayal of how culture has changed.

September 24-30 is Banned Books Week and book lovers around the country will be celebrating the freedom to read. Since its inception in 1982, many libraries and bookstores have made this event a regular part of their annual programming. From a simple book display to an elaborate event, celebrating Banned Books Week is a great way for librarians to promote reading and remind patrons not to take this freedom for granted. For those who are short on time or creativity, the ALA website offers a host of resources to make it easier, including display ideas, activity ideas, and free downloadable images and book lists.

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