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Banned Books: Introduction

Celebrating the Freedom to Read

Banned vs. Challenged

The language describing threats to our freedom to read can be confusing. Both "challenged" and "banned" are terms that indicate a threat of censorship.

  • CHALLENGED books have been identified by a person or group as a book whose content is considered offensive to that particular person or group. The challenge is an attempt to remove the book from the library or the curriculum, making it unavailable to everyone. Once a title is challenged, the library responds. Libraries have policies that can help to respond to a challenge.
  • BANNED books are those titles that have been removed from a library's shelf or from a course curriculum.

READ BANNED BOOKS

The First Amendment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise therof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

MWCC LaChance Library BBW Virtual-Readout 2013

What's it all about?

Since 1982, libraries and institutions throughout the United States have observed Banned Books week, usually during the last week of September. The focus of the week is to highlight the value of free and open access to information, and to remind us that challenges to this freedom must be recognized and addressed.

Many challenges to books and library materials are made by groups or individuals who have good intentions. They feel that their actions are helping to protect children and students and others who may be upset or offended by the content of the book. And, because of the 5 freedoms proclaimed in the First Amendment, everyone has the freedom to express their views, regardless of how other people and individuals may feel. That is how a democratic society works.

Why is it important?

What happens to a society where citizens are not allowed to choose what they read and speak? Think of something that you learned from reading a book. Now, imagine if that book were out of your reach. When the rights of the citizenry are ignored, will those citizens remain silent? The principle of intellectual freedom requires a free exchange of ideas. When a government suppresses the  exchange of a representative range of ideas, what happens?

There are plenty of books that contain information that many of us would consider objectionable, wrong, hurtful, racist, bad taste, etc. Is there ever an instance where censorship is acceptable?

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