From the Bookshelf: Banning Books Silences Stories


Banning Books Silences Stories

By Debbie Saunders



Bossard Memorial Library provides library materials for the education, recreation, entertainment, and enrichment of the public. The Library’s collection includes materials in a variety of formats that represent topics of current interest, as well of those of enduring value.

Building and maintaining a Library collection evolves as the needs of the community evolve. The Board of Trustees, administration, and staff of the Library are committed to upholding the tenants of intellectual freedom: (1) that free and open access to information is necessary for citizens who think and make choices for themselves; (2) that by providing access to a wide variety of facts, opinions, and ideas, the Library helps to create a well-informed and enlightened populace. Librarians have a professional responsibility to be inclusive, not exclusive, in selecting materials for the collection of the public library.

According to the American Library Association, the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom records hundreds of attempts by individuals and groups to have books removed from library shelves and from classrooms. Readers may be surprised to learn that some of their most beloved titles are considered “banned books”. To raise awareness of this issue, the Banned Books Coalition has designated September 23-29, 2018 as Banned Books Week, the annual celebration of the freedom to read, with the 2018 theme being “Banning Books Silences Stories.” Banned Books Week launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in book challenges. Where do these challenges take place today? As noted by the American Library Association, 56 percent of challenges take place at the public library, while 25 percent take place at school (curriculum and classrooms).

Classics such as The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, and The Color Purple have all been named to the Banned Books List. Works such as the Harry Potter series, Captain Underpants series, The Holy Bible, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, and even Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary have also been included on the list of most challenged books. The top ten most challenged books in 2017 included the classic To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, as well as titles such as Thirteen Reasons Why, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and The Kite Runner, among others.

The American Library Association has defined intellectual freedom as the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause, or movement may be explored.

To commemorate Banned Books Week, Bossard Library will have a special display to educate library patrons about the importance of intellectual freedom. Select banned book titles will be included in this display and will be available for checkout. You may be wondering if your favorite titles have ever made the most challenged books list. For more information, readers may visit the American Library Association’s website at ala.org, where readers can view the top banned books by decade or specific year.

It has been said that “a truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone” (librarian Jo Godwin). I encourage you to visit the Library today to peruse the diversity in the collection as the Library fulfills a key aspect of its mission to provide materials for all ages, of many levels of interest and ability, and of differing views and opinions.

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Banning Books Silences Stories

By Debbie Saunders

Debbie Saunders is the director of Gallia’s Bossard Memorial Library

Debbie Saunders is the director of Gallia’s Bossard Memorial Library