The latest (anonymous) complaint

ALA Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books

We recently received an undated and unsigned letter (although it was postmarked from Grand Rapids, MI) that reads in part:

To whom it may concern:

This is an official protest to register a complaint against any and all Koran’s [sic], because of this books [sic] vile content, we recommend that it no longer be allowed in any Public School of Library anywhere throughout the entire United States.

After accusing the Koran of being filled with “demands and instructions” for all manner of bad things, the writer continues:

I was told that all complaints are anonymous.

We will be watching to see if the mammoth complaints are acted upon.

Thank you.

I suspect this is a response to our 2015 Top Ten Most Challenged Book report, in which the Bible debuted as number 6. Apparently we need to emphasize that our list isn’t about complaints made directly to the American Library Association. Rather, it is our database of both public and confidential reports of formal challenges made to libraries, that is, written requests to remove or restrict access to a book available from the library. We tally the reports and issue an annual overview. (Incidentally, not all reports are anonymous. A challenge is confidential only when the people reporting it tell us they are afraid they might lose their jobs.)

People sometimes get confused on another point: this is not a list of things we’re trying to get removed, either. ALA has neither the authority, nor the desire, to excise the Koran, or the Bible, or any of the books on the Ten Most Challenged List, from any library. The purpose of the Office for Intellectual Freedom is in fact to defend and promote the right to free speech in libraries, which includes religious expression. We think the scriptures of all the world’s major religions actually belong in libraries, so people can read them and make up their own minds.

What is the purpose of the list? We aim to promote further discussion, to encourage thoughtful readers to take a look at the things that seem to be fretting Americans these days, and talk about what that might mean.

So, your point is taken, sir or madam. Thanks for writing. But this complaint doesn’t go into our tally, and we won’t be pushing anyone to censor the Koran, or the Bible. I hope that clears things up.

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