Banned Books Week: Celebrating Freedom of Thought and Expression
Bloomington, Indiana – October 2, 2023
The Monroe County Public Library and libraries across the United States are gearing up to celebrate Banned Books Week, an annual event that highlights the freedom to read and raises awareness about censorship challenges faced by literary works.
From October 1 to October 7, 2023, libraries will host various activities and discussions to promote intellectual freedom.
This year’s Banned Books Week carries significant importance as the American Library Association (ALA) reports a spike in book censorship attempts. The ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom documented a record-breaking 1,269 demands to censor books and resources in 2022, marking the highest number since data collection began over two decades ago. This marked an increase from the 729 book challenges reported in 2021.
The challenges were initiated by various groups, with 30% attributed to parents and 28% to patrons. Public libraries faced 48% of these challenges, followed by 41% in school libraries, and 10% in schools themselves.
“Banned Books Week is a celebration of the freedom to read and to think independently,” said Grier Carson, Library Director. “With the rise in the number of books being challenged across libraries and schools, it is also a reminder that an increasing number of people see that very freedom as a threat. Through it all, libraries remain unwavered in their effort to provide free and equitable access to materials and to help support and facilitate that freedom.”
The most challenged books of 2022 included titles like “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe, “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson, and “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, facing criticism primarily for LGBTQIA+ content, profanity, and perceived sexual explicitness. Other books, such as “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie and “Crank” by Ellen Hopkins, were challenged for various reasons, including drug depiction.
“That a public institution can support the needs of so many different groups of citizens while emphasizing each individual’s freedom to read (or not to read) is nothing short of remarkable,” Grier continued. “We encourage all MCPL patrons to reflect on that freedom and on how Banned Books Week reminds us that the path forward is through freedom of access, not book banning and censorship.”
Libraries play a crucial role in upholding the principles of intellectual freedom by offering diverse and thought-provoking materials to their communities. During Banned Books Week and beyond, readers of all ages are encouraged to explore books that challenge their perspectives and expand their horizons.
“This week and beyond, we encourage you to check out something that challenges your own thinking on a particular subject,” Grier added. “Whether it changes your mind or simply expands it, you’ll find that the freedom to access information and resources is akin to the freedom to think for yourself.”
Banned Books Week serves as a reminder of the importance of preserving the freedom to read and think independently and the vital role libraries play in supporting these freedoms.