Monday, September 28, 2009

Go Ahead, Read Something Controversial -- Celebrate Banned Books Week!

Can you imagine a library that's missing your favorite books, just because someone you don't even know decided their content is inappropriate for you -- and everyone else? Take a look at some of these titles. Have you read any of them? Do you agree with the reasons for which they have been challenged and/or banned?

Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
Reasons: occult/satanism, religious viewpoint, violence

Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
Reasons: offensive language, sexual content, unsuitable for age group

Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
Reasons: occult/satanism

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
Reasons: racism

The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
Reasons: sexual content, offensive language, unsuitable for age group

Beloved, by Toni Morrison
Reasons: offensive language, sexual content, unsuitable for age group

According to the American Library Association (ALA), these are just a handful of the titles that are challenged or banned every year. A challenged book is one whose value has been questioned by a member of the community, and has been requested to be removed from a library, school or other public institution. A banned book is one that has actually been removed from a library or school collection. Books have been challenged for a variety of reasons, including:
  • content unsuitable for the book's intended age group
  • sexual content
  • discriminatory content
  • offensive language
  • violence
  • occult or supernatural themes.

Libraries across the nation celebrate Banned Books Week (BBW) annually -- not to encourage challenges or bans, but to promote free and unrestricted access to materials. ALA's Web site states, "BBW celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion, even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular, and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them."

How do book challenges happen? Here's a typical scenario: a group of parents rally to remove a book, such as
The Giver by Lois Lowry, from a middle school library. The challenge imposes their personal views on the entire student body by blocking all students' access to the book. School officials may have to meet to discuss the challenge, and to decide whether or not the book remains on the middle school library shelves. This may be a lengthy process, thus preventing the book from being read for a long time.

The NCC Libraries are prepared for this year's Banned Books Week (September 26 to October 3). Here are some photographs from last year's eye-catching exhibit -- be sure to stop by and see what we have in store for you this year! Don't miss our display featuring some titles that have been banned in the past (you'll be surprised!), and take a moment to share your opinion about book banning. Celebrate your freedom to read any title you choose by crossing into our "Banned Books Zone"!

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