September 24, 2013

Spotlight on a Banned Books Week Hero: students and teachers from Glen Ellyn, IL

Throughout Banned Books Week, we will feature Banned Books Week Heroes—outstanding individuals who defended their freedom to read. Today’s featured Heroes are the students and teachers of Glen Ellyn, IL, who fought to keep Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower in their school district. Read about why they chose to defend this novel and what they think of book censorship in general.

From left: Cate Fanning, Nicole Clapp, Carly Basler, Olivia Mullenax, Caroline Makauskas, Maddie Howard and Libby Howard.

Student heroes

Carly Basler, Nicole Clapp, Maddie Giffin, Maddie Howard, Olivia Mullenax, and Corinne Payne

Teacher heroes

Lynn Bruno and Kelly Coleman

For more information on this censorship case, check out the August 2013 edition of the ILA Reporter, featuring a story from Acacia O’Connor, Coordinator of the Kids Right to Read Project, as well as an essay by Maddie Howard, Olivia Mullenax, and Nicole Clapp.  See also the video featuring Maddie Giffin and Maddie Howard calling for support from members of their community:

If you missed yesterday’s feature, Tony Diaz of Librotraficante, click here for his story. To see all the Banned Books Week Heroes, click here.

September 24, 2013

Khaled Hosseini for the Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out!

On the third day of Banned Books Week, we would like to feature a video from Khaled Hosseini reading a passage from his frequently challenged novel, The Kite Runner. The Kite Runner, was the 6th most frequently challenged novel in 2012 for homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, and being sexually explicit; and the ninth most frequently challenged book of 2008 for offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group.

Also check out the video of Hosseini discussing banned books, which was filmed at the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago, IL, 2013.

We hope you will submit videos of your own for the Banned Books Virtual Read-Out and support the Banned Books Week initiative by texting ALABBW to 41518  to give $10. Click here for more information on text-to-give.

 

September 24, 2013

Responding to the “Invisible Man” Challenge and Ban in North Carolina

Ralph EllisonThe ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom has sent a letter to the Board of Education of Randolph County, NC, concerning its recent ban of Ralph Ellison’s classic Invisible Man from school library shelves.  You can read local coverage of the letter here

The letter urges the board to reverse its decision to remove the book, citing constitutional concerns, the importance of having a broad range of materials that represent a diversity of views in school libraries, and the centrality of the freedom to read in helping develop thoughtful citizens.

The school board will be reconsidering the ban at tomorrow’s board meeting.

See the PDF of the full letter here.

Update: In another response to the school board’s action, a former Randolph County resident, Evan Smith Rakoff, teamed up with Salon.com’s Laura Miller and Books a Million to provide free copies of Invisible Man to county high school students.

Update 2: On Wednesday, September 25, the Board of Education rescinded the book ban following a short special hearing.

September 23, 2013

Banned Books Week Hero: Tony Diaz, Librotraficante

It takes courage to protect intellectual freedom and the freedom to read. To that end, the sponsors of Banned Books Week have identified outstanding individuals and groups who have stood up to defend their freedom to read by honoring them with the title Heroes of Banned Books Week.

Today we feature Tony Diaz. In 2012, Tony Diaz headed the Librotraficante Caravan to Smuggle Banned Books back into Arizona.

Tony Diaz

To learn more about his story, click here.  To see more heroes, click here.

September 22, 2013

Banned Books Week: Google Hangouts on Air

Today is the official start date of Banned Books Week 2013!

Google has coordinated several Hangouts on Air throughout the week with highly acclaimed banned/challenged authors. Check out the list below for more details. Feel free to share the events and invite your friends. We’d appreciate any and all support to help spread the word!

9/23: PEN American Center and the ALA Presents: A Live Hangout On Air with Sherman Alexie

9/23: Banned Books Week event: Author Mark Vonnegut reads from Slaughterhouse-Five and discusses his father’s experiences with censorship

9/24: Google+ and BookTrib Presents: A Live Hangout On Air with Jay Asher

9/24: Celebrate Banned Books Week – Discover What You’re Missing: Jamie Ford and Friends Celebrate the Freedom to Read

9/24: CBLDF Presents: Brad Meltzer on Banned Books Week, a Google+ Hang Out!

9/25: Lauren Oliver and Friends: Banned Books Week

9/26: PEN American Center Presents: A Live Hangout On Air with Erica Jong

We hope you enjoy celebrating your freedom to read during Banned Books Week! Donate $10.00 to help support our initiative by texting ALABBW to 41518. Go to ala.org/bbooks/text-to-give for more information.

September 18, 2013

Banned Books Week Heroes unveiled during Virtual Read-out

Readers from across the United States and around the world will demonstrate their support for free speech by participating in a Virtual Read-Out of banned and challenged books during Banned Books Week, Sept. 22 – 28, a time when the nation celebrates the freedom to read and the American Library Association (ALA) brings attention to the censorship of books in schools and libraries.

The Virtual Read-Out is the digital centerpiece of Banned Books Week, featuring individuals reading from their favorite banned or challenged book. Participants, libraries and bookstores will upload videos  for posting to the Banned Books Week YouTube Channel. Contributors are encouraged to share a reading, discuss the significance of their favorite banned book, or mention a local book challenge.

The event will serve as the backdrop for the announcement of Banned Books Week Heroes. It takes courage to stand up for intellectual freedom, and Banned Books Week sponsors have identified outstanding individuals and groups who have stood up to defend their freedom to read.

More than 1,500 videos have been submitted since the read-out began in 2011, including many by bestselling authors.  Sherman Alexie (“Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian”), Laurie Halse Anderson (“Speak”), and Khaled Hosseini (“The Kite Runner”) are among those contributing new videos.  Bookstores and libraries across the country are already participating in the Virtual Read-Out. Bookmans Bookstore (Ariz.) produced the video “Bookmans Does Banned Books” and Mooresville (Ind.) Public Library produced two promotional trailers.

For the first time this year, Twitter parties will help promote the message of Banned Books Week.  A party will be held on Monday, Sept. 23, from 10 a.m. to noon, Eastern Time, and a second party is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 25, from noon to 2 p.m., Eastern.  Supporters are urged to tweet using the hashtag #bannedbooksweek. More information about the Twitter parties is available on the Banned Books Week featured events page.

ALA’s work opposing censorship takes place not just during Banned Books Week, but throughout the year. OIF tracks hundreds of challenges to books and other materials in libraries and classrooms across the country.  OIF provides support to librarians, teachers and community members looking to keep books on the shelves.  Those wishing to support Banned Books Week and libraries can do so by texting ALABBW to 41518 to provide a $10 tax-deductible donation.

Banned Books Week is sponsored by ALA, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Association of American Publishers, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the National Association of College Stores, the National Coalition Against Censorship, the National Council of Teachers of English, PEN American Center, and Project Censored.  The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress has endorsed Banned Books Week.

For more information on Banned Books Week, book challenges and censorship, please visit the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom’s Banned Books Web site at www.ala.org/bbooks, or www.bannedbooksweek.org.

September 18, 2013

Freedom to read under fire as attempts to ban books continue

What would you do if you went to the library to check out a book, only to find it wasn’t there? Not because it was already checked out, but because someone else disapproved of its content and had it removed from library shelves? Banned Books Week, Sept. 22 – 28, stresses the importance of preventing censorship and ensuring everyone’s freedom to read any book, no matter how unorthodox or unpopular.

Despite the perception that censorship no longer occurs in the United States, attempts to ban books frequently take place in our schools and libraries.   According to the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), there were 464 reported attempts to remove or restrict materials from schools and libraries in 2012 and more than 17,700 attempts since 1990, when the ALA began to record book challenges.

Just recently Alabama State Senator Bill Holtzclaw (R-Madison) called for a ban on the novel “The Bluest Eye,” stating that the book should be removed from libraries and the 11th Grade Common Core reading list because he believes the book is “highly objectionable” and has “no value or purpose.” “The Bluest Eye” is Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison’s first novel and is often included in honors and Advanced Placement English classes.  Holtzclaw’s demand is just one example of the kinds of book challenges that, if successful, deny students and their parents the right and the freedom to choose books and literature that contain diverse ideas drawn from across the social and political spectrum.

“The ability to read, speak, think and express ourselves freely is a fundamental freedom that sustains and upholds  our democratic society,” said ALA President Barbara Stripling. “Banned Books Week serves as an opportunity to remind all of us that the freedom to choose books for ourselves and our family is a right, not a privilege.”

Book challenges to school library materials are not the only threat to students’ freedom of inquiry.  Online resources, including legitimate educational websites and academically useful social networking tools, are being blocked and filtered in school libraries. In an effort to raise awareness, the American Association of School Libraries (AASL), a division of the ALA, has designated one day during Banned Books Week as Banned Websites Awareness Day – Wednesday,  Sept. 25 – and is asking school librarians and other educators to promote an awareness of how excessive filtering affects student achievement.

Banned Books Week 2013 has been celebrating the freedom to read for more than 30 years.  Libraries and bookstores will observe Banned Books Week by hosting special events and exhibits on the power of literature and the harms of censorship.  ALA, along with Banned Books Week co-sponsors, will host one of those events, a Virtual Read Out on YouTube where participants will read from their favorite banned books. Past participants have included highly acclaimed and/or frequently challenged authors such as Judy Blume, Chris Crutcher, Whoopi Goldberg, Lauren Myracle and many others.

For the first time this year, Twitter parties will help promote the message of Banned Books Week.  A party will be held from 10 a.m. to noon Eastern time on Monday, Sept. 23, with a second party scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 25, from noon to 2 p.m. Eastern time.  Supporters are urged to tweet using the hashtag #bannedbooksweek. More information about the Twitter parties is available on the Banned Books Week website.

Also, many bookstores, schools and libraries celebrating Banned Books Week will showcase selections from the ALA OIF’s Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2012. The list is released each spring and provides a snapshot of book removal attempts in the U.S. The Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2012 reflects a range of themes and consists of the following titles:

1) Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey.
Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group

2) “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” by Sherman Alexie.
Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group

3) “Thirteen Reasons Why,” by Jay Asher.
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group

4) “Fifty Shades of Grey,” by E. L. James.
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit

5) “And Tango Makes Three,” by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.
Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age group

6) “The Kite Runner,” by Khaled Hosseini.
Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit

7) “Looking for Alaska,” by John Green.
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group

8) Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
Reasons: Unsuited for age group, violence

9) “The Glass Castle,” by Jeanette Walls
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit

10) “Beloved,” by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence

Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association; American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression; the American Library Association; American Society of Journalists and Authors; Association of American Publishers; and the National Association of College Stores.  It is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. In 2011, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the Freedom to Read Foundation, National Coalition Against Censorship, National Council of Teachers of English, and PEN American Center also signed on as sponsors.

ALA’s work opposing censorship takes place not just during Banned Books Week, but throughout the year. OIF tracks hundreds of challenges to books and other materials in libraries and classrooms across the country.  OIF provides support to librarians, teachers and community members looking to keep books on the shelves.  Those wishing to support Banned Books Week and libraries can do so by texting ALABBW to 41518 to provide a $10 tax-deductible donation.

For more information on Banned Books Week, book challenges and censorship, please visit the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom’s Banned Books Web site at www.ala.org/bbooks, or www.bannedbooksweek.org.

July 29, 2013

Tomorrow: Free Google Hangout “Revisiting CIPA 10 Years Later”

Re-posted from ALA Washington Office’s District Dispatch Blog

Join us tomorrow for “Revisiting CIPA 10 Years Later,” a national online symposium that will consider the impact of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) on access to electronic information. Librarians nationwide can join the virtual conversation with two Google Hangouts on Tuesday, July 30.

The first Hangout will start at 11 a.m. EDT and focus on an “Introduction and Overview of CIPA 10 Years Later.” The second one will share “Symposium Themes and Conclusions” starting at 12:15 p.m. EDT. The online discussions will be hosted by the American Library Association and Google, Inc.

Here’s how to join the conversation:

  • You can watch the live stream directly on YouTube on the ALA Washington Office channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/ALAWashingtonOffice/ ). ALA will tweet the URL using #CIPA_ALA13 at 10:45am EDT, right before the Hangout goes live.
  • You can also tweet @oitp and @oif using our hash tag #CIPA_ALA13.  We’ll be watching the Twitter feed and passing these comments to the speakers, as well.

Revisiting the Children’s Internet Protection Act: 10 Years Later” is part of ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) and Office for Intellectual Freedom’s (OIF) larger project on CIPA and access to information, made possible through support of Google, Inc. A white paper will be released this fall.

July 18, 2013

FTRF, ALA join efforts to protect privacy and increase transparency around surveillance

Cross-posted to the FTRF Blog and Choose Privacy Week

The Freedom to Read Foundation and American Library Association have joined with dozens of technology firms and other civil liberty organizations in calling on the Obama Administration and Congress to increase transparency surrounding government surveillance efforts.

In a letter released this morning, FTRF, ALA, and the other groups led by the Center for Democracy and Technology demanded that technology companies be permitted to release information about the number of requests for information under the USA Patriot Act and other authorities, as well as that the government itself release its own data on surveillance.

From the letter:

“As an initial step, we request that the Department of Justice, on behalf of the relevant executive branch agencies, agree that Internet, telephone, and web-based service providers may publish specific numbers regarding government requests authorized under specific national security authorities, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the NSL statutes. We further urge Congress to pass legislation requiring comprehensive transparency reporting by the federal government and clearly allowing for transparency reporting by companies without requiring companies to first seek permission from the government or the FISA Court.”

Today’s letter includes an appeal to the country’s innovative tradition:

“Just as the United States has long been an innovator when it comes to the Internet and products and services that rely upon the Internet, so too should it be an innovator when it comes to creating mechanisms to ensure that government is transparent, accountable, and respectful of civil liberties and human rights.”

See CDT’s full post on the letter.  Here’s press coverage about the letter from the Washington Post andNew York Times, and a post on Yahoo’s policy blog.

Campaign for Reader Privacy calls for new privacy legislation 

ALA today also joined with its partners in the Campaign for Reader Privacy to call on Congress to pass legislation to restore privacy protections for bookstore and library records that were stripped by the Patriot Act as a first step toward reining in what the group calls “runaway surveillance programs.”

The statement points out that,

“Two years ago, Democratic and Republican members of Congress introduced a bill requiring the government to show that those whose reading records it wishes to gather are actually suspected of criminal activity—something that is required by the Fourth Amendment, which protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures, and the First Amendment, which guards our right to access information of our own choosing. But Congress ignored that bill and reauthorized what we now know are flawed, dangerous powers.”

It continues, “What law-abiding Americans are reading is nobody’s business.”

See the full Campaign for Reader Privacy statement here.  The Campaign for Reader Privacy was established in 2004  by ALA, the American Booksellers Association, the Association of American Publishers, and PEN American Center.

History of support for privacy protections

The Freedom to Read Foundation and ALA have long been concerned about and prioritized education and advocacy around reader privacy issues as fundamental to our right to access information.

FTRF has engaged in several litigation efforts (including John Doe and ACLU v. Holder and Library Connection v. Gonzales) to mitigate the excesses of the Patriot Act and other post-9/11 surveillance initiatives. The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom sponsors Choose Privacy Week and cosponsors the new ala.org/liberty site, which includes the Privacy Toolkit created several years ago to help libraries provide education about privacy and secure the privacy of their users.  ALA is also part of the “Stop Watching Us” coalition, a broad, bipartisan organizing effort to demand accountability around surveillance.

At the ALA Annual Conference last month, the ALA Council passed a resolution in support of privacy, protection for whistleblowers, and increased government transparency.

July 3, 2013

ALA passes resolution supporting librarians sued over expressing professional opinions

At its third meeting at the 2013 ALA Annual Conference, the ALA Council passed this resolution in support of librarians who have been sued after they have shared their opinions in online forums.

Resolution Supporting Librarians Sued for Doing Their Professional Duty

Whereas librarians have recently been sued for expressing their professional opinions concerning the quality of publications;

Whereas those suits bear striking similarities to Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) used to suppress the expression of public opinion (www.law.cornell.edu/wex/slapp_suit);

Whereas these suits represent an attempt to repress the academic freedom of librarians expressing professional opinions;

Whereas the American Library Association (ALA Policy Manual B.2.5 / old 53.5) affirms academic freedom;

Whereas the American Association of University Professors and the Association of College and Research Libraries in their “Joint Statement on Faculty Status of College and University Librarians” state that “… as members of the Academic community, librarians should have latitude in the exercise of their professional judgment…”

Whereas the American Library Association strongly supports the free and open exchange of information for all persons including librarians (ALA Policy Manual B. 2.1.12 / old  53.1.12);  now, therefore, be it

Resolved, that the American Library Association

Most strongly urges publishers to refrain from actions such as filing libel suits when in disagreement with librarians who have publically shared their professional opinions and instead to rely upon the free exchange of views in the marketplace of ideas to defend their interests as publishers.

Endorsed by:

The Committee on Professional Ethics

Intellectual Freedom Round Table

Association of College and Research Libraries

Library Leadership and Management Association

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