Yesterday ended Banned Books Week. This year’s theme was “Censorship Leaves Us in the Dark: Keep the Light On!” The American Library Association wants us to know:
“Books are still being banned and challenged today. A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials.
“While books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available. This happens only thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, students, and community members who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read.”
I am betting you have read a banned or challenged book or two in your day – perhaps one of these classics?
• The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
• To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
• The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
• 1984 by George Orwell
• Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
• Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
• Animal Farm by George Orwell
• Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
• The Call of the Wild by Jack London
• The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Now, I must admit that there are books on library shelves that I would not choose to read or even recommend others to read. BUT, as a professional librarian, I agree with the following statements provided in the American Library Association’s Banned Book Week press kit:
“Censorship by librarians of constitutionally protected speech, whether for protection or for any other reason, violates the First Amendment.”
As Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., in Texas v. Johnson, said most eloquently:
“If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.”
If we are to continue to protect our First Amendment, we would do well to keep in mind these words of Noam Chomsky: “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.”
Or these words of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas (“The One Un-American Act.” Nieman Reports, vol. 7, no. 1, Jan. 1953, p. 20): “Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us.”
Keep the light on – so you can read (whatever you want)!
Willie Braudaway strives to make life better as a librarian, genealogist, and member of various community organizations. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.