A Pet Peeve

Banned Books Week, Intellectual Freedom Issues

One of the advantages I’ve discovered as a guest blogger is the relative freedom to ride ones own hobby horse. Well, I have a favorite for today. Banned Books Week (BBW). Or, more accurately, the people who complain that BBW is inaccurate, that the name is at best disingenuous and and at worse downright dishonest.

The argument goes thusly. Most books on the annual ALA list of banned and challenged books were “only” challenged, never banned. Even if some were removed from libraries, they are still available for purchase in book stores. Therefore, censorship hasn’t really happened because the government hasn’t banned the books.

Sounds to me as if these folks are second cousins to the young man who gave new meaning to the word chutzpah. When charged with murdering his parents he asked for leniency because he was an orphan! Chutzpah! Hey, since folks were unsuccessful in their efforts to get these books banned, you can’t use them as examples of the threat of censorship. We failed therefore you’re being dishonest. Chutzpah!

Run that by me again? Just because libraries and librarians have been so good at defending the freedom of the public to read as they choose, means that we’re being dishonest? No, it just means were doing our job.

As for whether removing books from libraries is censorship or not, public and school libraries are government bodies. If they buckle under to challenges and remove books from the shelves, they remove those books from the reach of the average citizen. If censorship involves the government restricting access to information, they are most certainly engaged in censorship.

As for still being available for purchase, that is true for most of the books in our libraries. If you follow that line of logic, we might as well close up shop. There would be no reason to have a public library. You want a book; go buy it.

So, in a few months when Banned Books Week rolls around and someone challenges it for being misleading, gently point out the error of their logic. Or just shout Chutzpa and let them figure it out.

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