Examining the top 10 challenged books of 2020 during Banned Books Week reveals deeper and more widespread attempts to limit intellectual freedom.
In light of recent attacks on the rights of LGTBQIA+ individuals and an increasingly toxic political environment, it’s doubtful that these concerted efforts to censor the speech of others will fade away anytime soon. Furthermore, librarians and their professional commitment to creating learning environments free from censorship almost certainly guarantees that they will face further challenges. Thus, the intention behind this list, even if it’s not entirely successful in communicating the breadth of ALA resources, is to provide a starting point for further exploration of intellectual freedom and the ways in which we, as librarians, can better advocate not only ourselves, but our communities as well.
Show off your best anti-censorship programs and displays, and apply now through June 4 for a Banned Books Week Celebration Grant.
The 2020 Presidential election, the COVID-19 pandemic, and an increase in digital, remote learning reveal the importance of providing students with nuanced, varied learning opportunities related to misinformation.
It’s frustrating to see a Library Trustee – presumably someone who loves libraries – making these statements because they seem so antithetical to what libraries do. It’s not entirely clear what he wants as a solution, but at the very least it seems like he’s asking the library to ignore current events and to hide collections on controversial subjects. I’m also saddened by the implication that by including something on the library website the library is “promoting” it. Librarians buy and check out materials every day we disagree with; that’s our job.
June is Rainbow Book Month, presented by the ALA Rainbow Round Table. Their work is especially important in its 50th year, with censorship of Rainbow library books, programs, and displays on the rise. Since the OIF began tracking Display Challenges in December 2016, 40 of the 54 reported challenges are for LGBT content (74%). Many libraries have policies for book challenges but displays are not always specifically written in.
We have a tremendous education task to execute as advocates for the freedom to read, and Banned Books Week is one awareness tool to assist in that effort.
In response to a challenge to a LGBTQ display in Maine, I argue that LGBTQ are mainstream parts of today’s culture (not a “far left” agenda as the challengers argued), that creating LGBTQ displays is still a political act, just as choosing not to create those displays would be.
“Beyond merely avoiding the exclusion of materials representing unorthodox or unpopular ideas, libraries should proactively seek to include an abundance of resources and programming representing the greatest possible diversity of genres, ideas, and expressions. A full commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion requires that library collections and programming reflect the broad range of viewpoints and cultures that exist in our world.”
The recent incident in Aurora, Ill., in which a self-described satirical poem by poet George Miller was removed from the library, is troubling for many reasons.