Know Your Rights: Intellectual Freedom & Libraries

The public library as an institution is charged with providing access to information, regardless of content. In doing so, the library stands firm in upholding the First Amendment and the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights. This is why, as Jo Godwin famously stated, “A truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone.”

The Seattle Public Library strives to meet the widest range of information needs through the careful and intentional selection of physical and digital items by librarians, by borrowing resources from a network of library systems throughout the country, and with purchase requests from you, our library patrons. If there is some piece of information that we don’t have, library staff will try to find it with you.

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Ethnic Studies: Banned

This past August, a federal judge lifted a ban on a Mexican-American ethnic studies program at the Tucson Unified School District. The decision came after a group of students sued, arguing the ban was overly broad, discriminatory, and violated their free speech. Although the ban and ruling that followed only affected Arizona, the case had implications for students throughout the country.

Would other school administrators and state legislatures be able to ban books that “advocate[d] ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals?” This was a prominent point of contention, despite conclusive evidence showing the educational benefits of such courses that draw on the lived experiences of students.

Banned Books Week is happening now, Sept. 24-30 2017, so we’d like to take this opportunity to highlight 10 books that were temporarily banned under this ruling, and that speak to the experiences and complex history of Latinx in the US. For young students, the most powerful narratives can be those that allow them to closely relate to the characters and their struggles. Characters and narratives can stimulate and facilitate learning by offering a vocabulary to  contextualize concepts that will serve students in class and in life, like critical thinking. Accessible narratives also offer Latinx and other historically underrepresented youth a place to find solidarity during a period of development that can be tough for even the omnipresent youth.

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Join us for the 4th Annual Banned! Books in Drag

In September, libraries put up their Banned Books Week displays that highlight the freedom to read, because every year books are challenged and banned due to their content. Books that explore themes of race, sexuality and gender are often the most challenged books in libraries across the country. So, it makes perfect sense to celebrate the freedom to read and the tenets of intellectual freedom with a free drag show, our fourth annual Banned! Books in Drag.

This year’s drag show will once again feature books that are challenged and banned with performances inspired by titles such as Alan Ginsburg’s Howl, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. At Neighbours night club on Saturday, September 23rd, doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and the performances will start at 7:30 p.m. This event is 21+, so bring your I.D. and get there early as the lines can be ghastly long! Continue reading “Join us for the 4th Annual Banned! Books in Drag”

Book Bingo: Banned

Join The Seattle Public Library and Seattle Arts & Lectures for our 2nd annual Summer Book Bingo for adults! Follow us throughout the summer for reading suggestions based on each category.

BannedEvery year, the American Library Association compiles reports of challenged and banned materials from libraries around the country.  The Top Ten Frequently Challenged Books are reported annually, and the results can act as a cultural barometer of sorts, reflecting the country’s tolerance (or lack of it) on certain themes or issues.

Regardless of which titles make the list each year, one thing we can always count on from the annual Top Ten is at least one surprise.  The 2015 list did not disappoint, presenting an especially diverse range of titles and containing more adult books than usual, including The Holy Bible!

While each book on the list this year is worth of examination, these first-timers are of particular interest.  All three were very well received by critics and the public alike, and each is ground-breaking in its own particular way: Continue reading “Book Bingo: Banned”

Book Bingo: Banned books

   — Posted by Abby

Book Bingo BannedThis summer The Seattle Public Library, in partnership with Seattle Arts & Lectures, is excited to offer a summer reading program for adults called Summer Book Bingo! In order to help you along on your quest to complete your bingo sheet, we have pulled together some book suggestions based on each category. Stay tuned for more throughout the summer!

As long as there have been books, there have been people who find the ideas contained within them dangerous and deserving of censorship. Since we live in a democratic nation where freedom of expression is a cherished value protected by the First Amendment, it’s easy to believe that book banning is a relic of the past. Yet even here, hundreds of books are challenged and removed from libraries every year.

Many of these challenges and removals take place in school libraries and curricula & involve books written for youth, but books written for adults have been challenged at public libraries as well. Here are a few from the past decade for the Banned Books square on your Summer Book Bingo card:

Fun HomeFun Home by Alison Bechdel. Hard to believe now that it’s the basis for a Tony-award winning musical, but this graphic memoir about a lesbian cartoonist’s complex relationship with her closeted father was challenged by community members at the Marshall Public Library in Missouri in 2006 due to its “pornographic” content. Retained. Continue reading “Book Bingo: Banned books”