The idea behind Banned Books Week (September 24-30, 2017) is to remind everyone that censorship is not a thing of a puritanical or prudish past. Unfortunately, books (and other creative works) are still banned, challenged, and removed from the shelves or from curriculums.
Thanks to the work of anti-censorship advocates, raids and arrests at stores, newspapers, and publishers on the grounds of obscenity are exceedingly rare these days. Currently, most attempts to remove books (and other creative works) take place in schools and libraries. This means that teachers and library staff are on the front lines of protecting your First Amendment freedoms.
The fundamental idea behind the First Amendment protections of freedom of speech, right to peaceful assembly, and freedom of religion is that in protecting the things that we don’t like, we actually create the strongest possible protection for the things that we do like.
But, at the same time, the reason that materials can be challenged and removed from schools and libraries is due to the fact that the people have a right to a say in how money is spent in these institutions and how these institutions develop and promote their collections. (Note: a ban or a challenge can’t actually stop the publication or distribution of items -- that would violate the First Amendment -- it’s a question of priorities, purchases, and collection development.)
As library staff, educators, and citizens, it is vital that we ensure a full and factual hearing about controversial materials, one that follows a due process and explores all points of view, takes place. Education and the creation of knowledge are about challenging beliefs and assumptions, not about indoctrination, and neither should our schools and libraries be fiefdoms run by the whims of one or a few people.
Banned Books Week is about defending ideas both popular and unpopular and ensuring the kind of robust public discussion that our government and society need to thrive.
Join us in celebrating your right to read at our fourth annual Banned Books Buffet, a "book tasting" which will allow you to sample a huge variety of banned, challenged, and controversial materials, as well as give you an opportunity to speak up about your freedom of speech.
--Katherine Keller, TDRL Evening & Weekend Supervisor--