Friday, September 23, 2011

Banned Books Week

It is the last week of September. Since 1982 this has been the appointed time for the beginning of Banned Books Week. This week is the result of the efforts of anti-censorship activist Judith Krug. Notice of this week fluctuates in the media from time to time so some of you may know of it and some may not. It is not really the hotbed First Amendment issue that many would like it to be.

The obvious point of this week (moreso back in the 80's than now) is to highlight what is available for public consumption in libraries or what could be imported from abroad through customs. The idea that books such as Huckleberry Finn or The Catcher in the Rye would be banned today is laughable. The spectrum of what is acceptable has widened considerably. In modern times with the Internet the battles over censorship has taken a more technological bent. With the availability of controversial materials on the Internet the public library is no longer the sole battleground so that battle is not really worth the effort. Without the safety valve of the Internet, then yes, censorship in the library would certainly be back in the forefront.

Now there certainly are issues about which books should be used in schools and available in school libraries. Social tolerances do change over the years and the local debates about what should and should not be available is a healthy debate. So while I am a defender of the First Amendment in regards to what I choose to read or see I fully support a parents right to have a say what is used in school.

Still though even with the muted nature of this week there is still a conflict which does occasionally spill over into the public library over what is available primarily in regards to children. While few books are actually banned, many are challenged on various grounds. This is the debate in the public square which as I said earlier is healthy in a functioning democracy.

When it comes down to brass tax the ultimate use nowadays for this week is more publicity for libraries than anything else. The whole specter of the banned and taboo does put bodies in the seats. So while you will read a story or two about some book 'banned' for a century finally being put back on a shelf in some backwater village this week while cool is much ado about nothing.

For more info of the week.

Article - Banned Books Week is just hype.

50 Banned Books That Everyone Should Read

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