Banned Books Week

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Banned Books Week is an annual awareness campaign that celebrates the freedom to read,[1] draws attention to banned and challenged books,[2] and highlights persecuted individuals.[3] The United States campaign "stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them"[4] and the requirement to keep material publicly available so that people can develop their own conclusions and opinions. The international campaign notes individuals "persecuted because of the writings that they produce, circulate or read."[3]


Banned Books Week was founded in 1982 by prominent First Amendment and library activist Judith Krug.[5] It is sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA), the American Booksellers Association, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE), American Society of Journalists and Authors, Association of American Publishers, National Association of College Stores, and endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.

United States event[edit]

A Banned Books Week "read out" at Shimer College.

It has been held during the last full week of September since 1982.[6] Banned Books Week not only encourages readers to examine challenged literary works, but also promotes intellectual freedom in libraries, schools, and bookstores. Its goal is "to teach the importance of our First Amendment rights and the power of literature, and to draw attention to the danger that exists when restraints are imposed on the availability of information in a free society."[7] Offering Banned Books Week kits, the ALA sells posters, buttons, and bookmarks to celebrate the event.

Many educational facilities also celebrate banned and challenged books during this week, often creating displays and programs around the awareness campaign. Additionally, various booksellers sponsor activities and events in support of Banned Books Week. Some retailers create window displays, while others go further, inviting authors of banned and challenged materials to come speak at their stores, as well as funding annual essay contests about freedom of expression. Educational facilities and booksellers also sponsor "read outs," allowing participants to read aloud passages from their favorite banned books.[8]

International event[edit]

Amnesty International also celebrates Banned Books Week by directing attention to individuals "persecuted because of the writings that they produce, circulate or read."[3] Its web site documents "focus cases" annually which show individuals who have been reportedly killed, incarcerated, or otherwise harassed by national authorities around the world, and urge people to "take action" to help it in partnership with its "Urgent Action Network" by contacting authorities regarding human rights violations.[9] They also provide updates to cases from previous years, giving a history and current status of people who have been allegedly persecuted for their writings. The cases include individuals from Azerbaijan, China, Cuba, Egypt, Gambia, Iran, Myanmar, Russia, and Sri Lanka.


The event has been praised for celebrating the freedom provided by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.[10] Public events where banned and challenged books are read aloud are commonly held to celebrate the event.[11][12][13][14] The international event held by Amnesty International has also been praised for reminding people about the price that some people pay for expressing controversial views.[15]

Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby noted that the overwhelming number of books on the list were books that were simply challenged (primarily by parents for violence, language, sexuality, or age-appropriateness), not actually removed.[16]

Mitchell Muncy writing in the Wall Street Journal has alleged that the censorship being protested in the event does not exist, and that books are not banned in the United States.[17] Camila Alire, a former president of the ALA, responded that Banned Books Week highlights "the hundreds of documented attempts to suppress access to information that take place each year across the U.S.," and that "when the library is asked to restrict access for others, that does indeed reflect an attempt at censorship."[18]

Former ALA Councilor Jessamyn West said:

Doug Archer, librarian and past chair of the ALA's Intellectual Freedom Committee, responds that such criticisms do not fairly address the threat of censorship:

The Christian right organization Focus on the Family regularly challenges Banned Books Week, claiming that books are not really banned, and that libraries' policies are anti-family.[21][22][23][24][25][26] Tom Minnery, vice president of public policy, said, "The ALA has irresponsibly perpetrated the 'banned' books lie for too long...Nothing is 'banned,' but every year this organization attempts to intimidate and silence any parent, teacher or librarian who expresses concern about the age-appropriateness of sexually explicit or violent material for schoolchildren."[27] Candi Cushman, Focus on the Family's education analyst, said that "parents have every right and responsibility to object to their kids receiving sexually explicit and pro-gay literature without their permission, especially in a school setting";[28] pointing out that the children's book And Tango Makes Three, about same-sex penguin parents, was one of the books at the top of ALA's most-challenged list, she criticized the event for its "promotion of homosexuality to...6- or 7-year-old [children] against their will."[29] The anti-gay group Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX) has similarly criticized the ALA for not using the event to champion ex-gay books or books opposing same-sex marriage in the United States.[30][31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "About Banned Books Week". Library Journal. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  2. ^ "About Banned and Challenged Books". American Library Association. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  3. ^ a b c "Banned Books Week". Amnesty International, USA. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  4. ^ "Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read". American Library Association. Archived from the original on 5 October 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  5. ^ Dorothy Samuels (2009-04-14). "Editorial | Appreciations | Judith Krug". New York Times. Archived from the original on 15 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-15. 
  6. ^ Office for Intellectual Freedom (2010). Intellectual Freedom Manual. American Library Association. p. 406. ISBN 0838935907. 
  7. ^ "Banned Books Week". American Library Association. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  8. ^ The ALA Book of Library Grant Money. 2011. p. 176. ISBN 0838910580. 
  9. ^ "Urgent Action Network". Amnesty International, USA. Retrieved 2009-10-09. 
  10. ^ Ron Dzwonkowski (2009-10-01). "Banned Books Week is a good time to read one". Detroit Free Press. 
  11. ^ "Lit events". Chicago Tribune. 2009-09-26. Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  12. ^ "VC, UHV celebrate freedom with Read Out". Victoria Advocate. 2009-09-26. Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  13. ^ Kevin Mertz (2009-10-12). "A stand against banned books". Milton Daily Standard. Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  14. ^ ""Banned Books Week" at Gulf Coast Community College". WJHG-TV. 2009-10-02. Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  15. ^ Nancy Mattoon (2009-09-29). "Books Banned, Author Imprisoned". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  16. ^ Jacoby, Jeff (September 27, 2001). "Book-Banning, Real and Imaginary". The Boston Globe. 
  17. ^ Mitchell Muncy (2009-09-24). "Finding Censorship Where There Is None". Wall Street Journal. p. W13. Retrieved 2009-09-25. 
  18. ^ "Letters to the Editor:Librarians Work to Protect Free Access to Information". Wall Street Journal. 2009-10-01. Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
  19. ^ [[Jessamyn West (librarian)|Jessamyn West (librarian)]] (2006-09-21). "Banned Books Week is Next Week". Retrieved 2009-08-11. 
  20. ^ Doug Archer (2009-06-17). "A Pet Peeve". OIF Blog. Office for Intellectual Freedom. Retrieved 2009-09-18. 
  21. ^ Reid, Carol (June–July 1999). "On My Mind: "Challenge," and Other Politely Empowering Euphemisms". American Libraries 30 (6): 60. JSTOR 25637199. 
  22. ^ Lee, Earl (1998). Libraries in the age of mediocrity. McFarland. p. 106. 
  23. ^ "From banned to challenged?". Library Journal 122 (1-7). 1997. 
  24. ^ "ALA under attack". College & research libraries news 56: 687. 1995. 
  25. ^ "Focus on the Family Focuses on ALA". American Libraries 28 (10): 9. November 1997. JSTOR 25634684. 
  26. ^ "Special Report: Christian Conservatives Organize to Criticize ALA". American Libraries 26 (10): 983. November 1995. JSTOR 25633767. 
  27. ^ "Focus on the Family Exposes the "Banned" Books Lie". Charity Wire. September 23, 2002. 
  28. ^ Shepard, Stuart (September 29, 2009). "Responding to Banned Books Week". Focus on the Family. 
  29. ^ Snow, Catherine (September 29, 2010). "Library Association Pushes Anti-Family Agenda through ‘Banned Books Week’". Focus on the Family. 
  30. ^ Chandler, Michael Alison (2008-10-03). "Banned Books, Chapter 2; Conservative Group Urges Libraries to Accept Collection". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-11-11. 
  31. ^ Diane Macedo (2009-10-22). "Gay Reversal Advocates Say School Libraries Banning Their 'Ex-Gay' Books". Fox News. Archived from the original on 25 October 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-22. 

Further reading[edit]

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