DeWitt In celebrating the 30th anniversary of “Banned Books Week,” the American Library Association's annual celebration of the freedom to read, the DeWitt Community Library created an exhibit of historic and recently banned books.
Next to each book on display were placards that listed the reasons why and where the book was challenged. On display were classics of literature such as Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle,” (burned in Nazi bonfires because of the author’s socialist views) and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World,” (banned in the past and still being challenged today because the book is “centered on negative activity.”)
Each year, the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom receives hundreds of reports on books and other materials that were “challenged” or asked to be removed from school or library shelves. The ALA estimates the number represents only about a quarter of the actual challenges. The reasons for these challenges can vary but the result should stay the same: free access to these types of materials should be a pinnacle of the public library’s mission. One of the books in the DCL’s display is Salman Rushdie’s book, “The Satanic Verses,” which, in 1989, created an outcry from various parts of the world leading to threats against the author, publisher, and those who sold or carried the book. When it was published, the ALA release a joint statement with book publishers and book sellers that they would always make the book available and supported the public’s right to buy, check out and read this book.
Even today, books are being challenged for the themes and content in them. In 2011 alone, 326 challenges were reported in the United States against works such as Susan Collins’ “The Hunger Games” and the children’s book by author Dori Hillestad Butler, “My Mom’s Having a Baby.” As a library we defend the right to read for all our users and in doing so make these items available to those who seek them. We encourage you to read banned and challenged books, and not just during “Banned Book Week,” if only to find out what makes them so unique.
Paul Morrell, assistant director of technology and computing, spearheaded the DeWitt Community Library’s “Banned Books Week” exhibit.