Banned Books Week 2009

In September 2007 I wrote about Banned Books Week. I figured with the 2009 Banned Books Week’s arrival, it was a good time to revisit this event. In case you missed my last article about this in 2007, here’s a refresher of what we’re talking about as stated on the American Library Association’s website:

Celebrating the Freedom to Read is observed during the last week of September each year. Observed since 1982, this annual ALA event reminds Americans not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted. BBW celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. After all, intellectual freedom can exist only where the freedom to express oneself and the freedom to choose what opinions and viewpoints to consume are both met.

Books aren’t always banned, often times they are challenged, but thanks to the efforts of students, teachers, parents, librarians, and organizations like the ALA, many challenged books get to remain in libraries. “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,” explains the ALA website.

In 2007 I listed some books that were banned or challenged on religious grounds. I still recommend reading a banned book to celebrate this event, (Click here for a list of banned classics.) but for 2009 I thought I would provide you with a different interesting widget.

Click here to view a map from the Banned Books Week website showing book bans and challenges from 2007-2009. The website explains that the map probably only reflects 20-25% of actual incidents since many challenges are not reported. This map is drawn from cases documented by ALA and the Kids’ Right to Read Project, a collaboration of the National Coalition Against Censorship and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression.

It’s a really interesting thing to examine, and by clicking on any of the markers you can get the details of that area’s incident. For instance, Indianapolis, Indiana: (2008) Todd Tucker’s “Notre Dame vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan” became controversial when the IUPUI administrators found that a student-employee was guilty of racial harassment merely for reading the book in a public area. The student-employee contact the ACLU of Indiana and six months later received a letter from IUPUI expressing regret and that the school was committed to upholding the freedom of speech on campus.

Take a moment this week to celebrate the freedom to read!