Every year, the last week of September is known in the Library world as “Banned Books Week.” Founded in 1982, this important annual tradition highlights and celebrates the books that have, at some point, been banned or challenged.
One of the key freedoms that we enjoy as Americans is the right to free speech. Under the implications of this Amendment, libraries have a unique opportunity to offer free and equal access to a variety of ideas and beliefs through the materials our hallowed shelves hold. In one of the many trials regarding book censorship in the past century, Justice William Brennan aptly wrote in 1982 that the Library has a distinct role as the institution that “afford[s] the public access to discussion, debate, and the dissemination of information and ideas.” At Altadena Library, we wholly believe this, including in our tagline the very mission of “Bringing People + Ideas Together.”
A common misconception is that censorship of books is limited to historical periods of totalitarian governmental control, a prime example being the infamous burnings of tens of thousands of books under the Nazi regime in the 1930s. However, book censorship occurs around the world to this day, including in the United States. Books that are now considered American classics and are sometimes part of many English curriculums across the country, including The Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and Farenheit 451, have been censored and debated over for years. Take a moment with me and imagine a world where people have not been able to learn from the stories of such inspirational and revolutionary characters, real and fictional, as Malcolm X and Atticus Finch. Seems like a scary world to me.
We hope you will stop by our Main Library or Bob Lucas Branch Library between September 24th and 30th to explore our displays of Banned Books. Throughout this month’s newsletter
are lists of previously banned or challenged books that our librarians have compiled for each age group that we serve. Join us in this literary rebellion and read a book that has been deemed scandalous or controversial by our nation’s censors!