Banned Books Week Sept 30 – Oct 6

October 1, 2012

This year Bill Moyers is co-chair of Banned Books Week, which is sponsored by a wide coalition of partners including publisher and civil libertarian groups outside as well as inside our profession.  Catch his video on ALA’s website here.  While talking about his first taste of free reading as a child taking advantage of his local public library, Moyers mentions he considered library science as a career.  Well, as much as he would have enriched librarianship, this appreciative viewer is really glad he took the career path he did.

ALA also posts the most challenged book titles for which it has received notification.  The list for the past decade is quite interesting and includes a lot of what schools assign as “classics.”    I wonder if teachers talk up the fact that some adults somewhere didn’t want you to be able to read this regardless of what you or your parents think?  If not, they’re probably missing a good motivational tactic appealing to their students’ healthy rebelliousness.

As you probably know, Banned Books Week has had its critics, even librarian dissenters.  Among these voices, one argument  I find interesting was made last year by the Annoyed Librarian blog, whose author seems  to find domestic concern about challenged books trivializing with respect to what readers, publishers, and libraries face in other countries:

The next time Band Books Week comes around, it would be less selfrighteous and much less annoying if the ALA and its minions stopped going on about nonexistent censorship in America, and instead started publicizing all the places in the world where censorship really does occur, where books really are banned, and where librarians who toed the ALA line would be imprisoned.

This call for greater awareness of  life-threatening oppression in definitely unfree societies, as well as solidarity with its victims, is totally laudable.  Personally, however, I don’t see why that point should necessarily be coupled with a “dissing” of the awareness and educational campaign here and in other freer societies.  It could be argued maintaining vigilance and awareness in open democracies is also important, since their citizens can start taking these values for granted and miss the subtler threats and pressures.  But if the point is perhaps we could expand the focus worldwide to places where intellectual freedom doesn’t even get lip service, I think that could be a fruitful discussion.

Posted by Darren

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