Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Celebrating the Freedom to Read

Mocking Bird Poster for Banned Books Week 2009 by American Library AssociationWe make a big song-n-dance about the Freedom of Speech here in America, but Freedom to Read is like a poor relation twice removed. Without the freedom to read, freedom to speak has no meaning. Without the infusion of new thoughts and new ideas, what in the world would you speak about?

Banned Books Week 2009 by American Library AssociationBanned Books Week (BBW) by the American Library Association (ALA) serves to highlight the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books. BBW also stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints for all who wish to read and access them. While not every book is intended for every reader, each of us has the right to decide for ourselves what to read.

Banned Books Week 2009 by American Library AssociationSince 1990, the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) has recorded more than 10,000 book challenges, including 513 in 2008. (A challenge is a formal, written complaint requesting a book be removed from library shelves or school curriculum.) About three out of four of all challenges are to material in schools or school libraries, and one in four are to material in public libraries. OIF estimates that less than one-quarter of challenges are reported and recorded.

Banned Books Week 2009 by American Library AssociationThis is horrifying. In this day and age, when we talk about the advances our civilization has made. WhAt?! WhErE?! Every time we limit access to even one book, we take a giant step back to our caveman days.

This year, BBW will be from September 26 to October 3. Go forth, and celebrate! And read!

[Edited 9/27: A different look at recent banned books: map of the country.]