“Keep the Light On” with these Helpful Tools

Banned Books Week

By: Kristin Pekoll, OIF Assistant Director

Don’t be left in the dark this Banned Books Week (September 22-28, 2019). Light the way with the American Library Association (ALA) to promote the freedom to read and access information. There are a lot of great tools, resources, and ideas available but I’m going to highlight my three favorite. 

#1) Field Report 2018: Banned and Challenged Books

With more than 90 descriptions of recent censorship attempts around the country, the Field Report is a perfect handout for those interested in learning about challenged books, censorship trends, and how to defend the freedom to read. The Field Report reviews public challenges to books, films, programs, meeting rooms, displays, and online resources. The report also includes 12 ways readers can shine a light on censorship, as well as information on the Top 11 Most Challenged Books of 2018.

Possible Uses

The Field Report is an eye-catching resource to showcase the variety of books and unique situations of each challenge to your community. You could leave a stack for people to pick up at the reference desk or check-out counter. If you are hosting an event or display, having Field Reports on hand can continue the conversation and give people more information on how to be involved. You can use the Field Report when you visit classrooms to talk about Banned Books Week and intellectual freedom. Or bring a few with you to your board meetings to raise awareness of the harms of censorship and how the library is indispensable to protecting First Amendment rights.

Where can I find it?

You can purchase a digital file of this year’s most recent Field Report from the ALA Store. Past field reports, along with other banned and challenged book lists, are available on ALA’s banned books website. We’ve also compiled all the titles from 2018 that were reported from libraries, schools, and the media. This is a complete list of book titles that were banned, challenged, restricted, or burned during the year, as reported to the Office for Intellectual Freedom. 

#2) #BannedBooksWeek

When it comes to social media, the hashtag is used to draw attention, to organize, and to promote. Hashtags got their start on Twitter as a way of making it easier for people to find, follow, and contribute to a conversation.

The great thing about the #BannedBooksWeek hashtag is how it pulls together a huge variety of organizations and people: libraries, bookstores, schools, colleges, non-profits, artists, authors, and readers. The tweets include pictures of displays, event flyers, favorite banned books, quotes from authors, and in-depth discussions of the importance of intellectual freedom. This hashtag is a super simple way of participating in the week with very little expense of time, energy, or money.

#3) Pinterest

Pinterest is an online pinboard or a “visual discovery engine”. It’s a common tool to find inspiration and to collect ideas on a wide range of topics, specifically aesthetic topics like gardening, style, graphic design, or book displays. Librarians and teachers routinely create boards for topics like Banned Books Week and pin ideas they want to refer back to later. ALA has a whole account dedicated to Banned Books Week with pins categorized into specific boards for Displays, Events, Resources, Downloads, Merchandise, and a ton more.

I have an extension on my chrome browser for pinterest so I can easily pin an image when I’m on social media or a library’s website. This is a great way to crowdsource your ideas.

#4) Bonus

Banned Books Week Poster from 2003 with the theme "Open Your Mind to Books." via the American Library Association Archives
Banned Books Week Poster from 2003 with the theme “Open Your Mind to Books.” via the American Library Association Archives

Two weeks ago ALA shared a press release titled “Libraries ‘Keep the Light On’ During Banned Books Week” that points to even more resources and tools, including webinars, programs, and professional communities. It can be a bit overwhelming but I like to think of it as a buffet for all appetites of Banned Books Week enthusiasts. 

Banned Books Week wasn’t intended for just librarians or teachers or bookstore owners. In 1982, free speech activists at ALA, the American Booksellers Association, and the National Association of College Stores noted an increase in censorship incidents and wanted to promote the importance of being able to read anything you wanted and think for yourself. The history of Banned Books Week illustrates that this initiative is for the readers. 

Today, Banned Books Week coverage by mainstream media reaches an estimated 2.8 billion readers, and more than 90,000 publishing industry and library subscribers. The Banned Books page remains one of the most popular pages on the ALA website. Visit ala.org/bbooks and discover how you can “Keep the Light on.” 

Kristin Pekoll

Kristin Pekoll is the Assistant Director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom and is the first contact for support to librarians and educators who are experience censorship. Kristin communicates with state library associations on current book challenges and publications that deal with censorship, privacy, ethics, and internet filtering. She organizes online education and training on the freedom to read and how to navigate reconsideration requests and media relations. Kristin started her career as a youth librarian in West Bend, Wisconsin where she experienced a book challenge to over eighty YA LGBTQ books. This summer she will be publishing her first book with ALA Editions titled Beyond Banned Books: Defending Intellectual Freedom throughout Your Library. In her free time she enjoys watching the Green Bay Packers and working on jigsaw puzzles. Find her on Twitter @kpekoll.

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