As we continue to celebrate Library Card Sign-Up Month and reflect all all the wonderful things libaries can be, it's time to celebrate another important library holiday—Banned Books Week! Beginning yesterday and extending through Saturday, September 24, this annual American Library Association (ALA) initiative is our reminder that we have the freedom to read what we choose, when we choose!
Typically held at the end of September, Banned Books Week spotlights current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools. It brings together the entire book community— librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types—in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular. The books featured throughout Banned Books Week have all been targeted for removal or restriction in libraries and schools, and by focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship. This year's theme is "Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us," and frequently-banned author George M. Johnson will serve as the Honorary Chair in 2022.
Banned Books Week was founded in the 1980s amid the 1982 Island Trees School District v. Pico Supreme Court case. The Supreme Court officially ruled that school officials are not allowed to ban books due to their content, but all types of books continue to be banned or challenged today, often those with themes including profanity, sex, LGBTQ+ characters, drug use, alcohol use, same-sex relationships, and violence, among others. The most challenged books of 2021 can be found in this video, or by visiting ala.org/bbooks/top.
Here at the Free Library, we’ll be participating in Banned Books Week all week long, so tune in to our social media (if you'll be sharing, too, use the #BannedBooksWeek hashtag!) to learn more! In the meantime, Banned Books Week offers an opportunity for readers to voice censorship concerns, celebrate free expression and show their communities the importance of intellectual freedom. Here’s what you can do to fight censorship, keep books available in libraries, and promote the freedom to read:
- Read a Banned Book: Browse the lists of commonly banned and challenged titles, and grab one today from your neighborhood library! Need inspiration? View some of our staff recommendations! You can even encourage your local book club to read and discuss one of the titles.
- Report Censorship: If you hear of a challenge at your local library, support your librarian for free and open access to library materials by contacting the OIF!
- Support Your Library: We can’t carry out our mission to advance literacy, guide learning, and inspire curiosity without you, and Banned Books Week is a great time to support the Free Library.
- Write a letter to a favorite banned or challenged author: Take some time to thank a banned or challenged author for their words! Author addresses and Twitter handles can be found on the Dear Banned Author page.
- Visit the ALA website for more ways to get involved and celebrate Banned Books Book!
Read on, Philly!