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.

Continue reading “Know Your Rights: Intellectual Freedom & Libraries”

Book Banning Lives!

Librarians, almost universally, are hostile to the idea of denying access to information. Every year, we honor the survival of literature against the onslaught of book banners and information suppressors with displays and programming to call the community’s attention to the fight. There is even a week set aside to memorialize what we regard as the noblest of struggles. This year, Banned Books Week is September 30−October 6, 2012, so we are in the midst of it right now. Our Teen Librarians have a series on important books which captured the attention of banners on their blog Push to Talk. Look for displays and other information on Banned Books Week throughout the library system.

Why was this book banned?

If you’ve been to your local library sometime this month, you’ve probably seen a display of books that have been challenged or banned in libraries, bookstores, and communities at some point in history. Created in honor of Banned Books Week (Sept. 27 through Oct. 4), these displays may have made you wonder why these books were censored in this first place. See this previous post on banned books for a list of book censorship’s “greatest hits” around the world and throughout time. In today’s post, we explore the censorship history of a few titles in greater depth.

In the United States, many of us consider book censorship ancient history, a product of despotic and authoritarian governments that is unthinkable in a democratic society. Unfortunately, book banning and challenging continues in our society to this day. The vast majority occurs in school libraries and curricula, but books written for adults continue to be challenged and sometimes removed from public libraries around the country. Below are six books that were challenged and/or removed from public libraries & bookstores in the last 50-odd years. Check out their histories (in order of date censored, not publication), then check them out from the Seattle Public Library, and celebrate your freedom to read!

Reading those censored books

Every year, the American Library Association puts out a list of the most challenged books of the previous year, plus a distressingly thick catalog of banned and challenged books. This article at The Onion made me think about all the various banned books that most of us really never read (or read for the wrong reasons), and so I resolve I’m going to pick up a few and add them to my To-Read list on GoodReads.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin
I read this in college and enjoyed it, but frankly don’t recall why it was so controversial that it was banned for decades in this country. Maybe a re-reading will shed some light on this. Continue reading “Reading those censored books”

Celebrating the freedom to read for over two millennia

This month and next all over Seattle (and all over the country), libraries will be putting up displays and posters and hosting events in honor of Banned Books Week (Sept 27 – Oct 4). The annual event, started in 1982 by the American Library Association, is a celebration of your freedom to read, and an important reminder that this liberty must not be taken for granted. Of course banning books is nothing new, so to get things rolling this year, here’s a brief look back at 2,500 years of censorship. (Dates are of censorship, not publication).