The Index Librorum Prohibitorum was a list of books banned for lay Roman Catholic readership. Officially — though the Church was never fully explicit in its means of prosecution of such rules — any individual who dared read any books included on this list risked excommunication and, thus, spiritual damnation.
Although Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered the regulation rescinded, a recent proposal and pilot program by New York to severely limit prisoners’ access to reading material raises serious question about prisoners’ right to read.
Indeed, however difficult it might be to differentiate the men who authored these books from their words on the page, it is vital to our First Amendment rights and the promotion of intellectual freedom that we do not let that difficulty interfere with our duties as librarians. Patrons possess, and should continue to hold, the right to decide for themselves whether or not they want to read these materials.
On January 10th, the New Jersey prisons reversed a ban on Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, after a letter from the New Jersey ACLU challenged the ban. With a little reflection, it isn’t hard to see the bitter irony of banning prisoners from reading a book like The New Jim Crow, a book that argues that mass incarceration targets African-Americans in order to keep them in an inferior position both socially and economically. These men and women are made “socially dead,” to borrow a phrase from famed sociologist Orlando Patterson.
“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re going to be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?” — The Hate U Give
Whether you post the calendars in your office where you might pique a visitor’s interest or use them to schedule tasks with students or reference desk shifts, you are raising awareness of intellectual freedom. You are starting conversations.
By: guest blogger Andrea Jamison. The banning of Angie Thomas’s New York Times bestselling book, The Hate U Give, is another stark reminder that the message behind the Black Lives Matter movement has indeed fallen on deaf ears. Although officials from the Katy Independent School District in Texas affirm that the book is not technically banned but is under a “standard” procedural review, it is clear that the district circumvented their policies by removing copies of the book during this “review” process.
Hurston’s book was the first novel published by an African-American woman, and her story of the search for love and self-identity is one that we can all relate to. As historical fiction with a specific setting, “The novel provides a rare glimpse into life as it was for some African Americans living in the Florida in the early 1900s, post-slavery.”
With its three distinguished leaders over the half-century, the office has transformed into a thriving resource for librarians when First Amendment rights have been trampled. And we couldn’t have done it without you. Here are a few stats that highlight the work we’re proud to continue, and the obstacles our team is determined to tackle with your support.
The reasons people challenge books, in schools and in libraries, are numerous. Regardless, a surprising number of Americans, when faced with the right reason, are actually pro book banning. This is reflected in a recent YouGov.com poll, which asked what kinds of content in books should be banned, and in what settings.