Thursday, September 30, 2010

Be a rebel -- read a book!

Quick, without thinking, what's your gut-reaction stereotype of a librarian?  Did it involve cardigans, half-moon glasses, cats, and practical shoes?  Was there "shush"ing involved?  Or, did you think of a rebellious crusader for intellectual freedom?  Don't worry, I know which one you probably chose

Every year, during the last week of September, the American Library Association likes to remind you that, while we might wear practical shoes (hey, cut us some slack -- there's a lot of walking involved), there's a fierce independent streak in librarians -- and I'm not just talking about the field trips to the tattoo parlor during the ALA convention (yes, really). 

The last week of September is Banned Books Week, in which the cardigan-wearing, cat-owning librarians of stereotypes of yore encourage you to read a book specifically because someone else doesn't want you to.  Banned Books Week celebrates books that have been banned or challenged (i.e., someone unsuccessfully tried to ban it).  It's not just the librarians who support this week, either.  Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association; American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression; the American Library Association; American Society of Journalists and Authors; Association of American Publishers; and the National Association of College Stores. It is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.

The celebration of banned books wasn't created to encourage people to read naughty bits in books, but to celebrate our ability to read what we want.  The First Amendment and its promise of freedom to access information and share ideas is key to Banned Books Week.  If you want to read a steamy novel, go for it.  But, it's not just about heaving bosoms and stirred loins -- it's about political ideas on both ends of the spectrum that you have access to read because somebody has protected your right to do so.  It's about you getting to decide what is appropriate for you and your family to read, rather than having someone else choose for you.

Many books that are considered highly influential classics were once banned or challenged.  In fact, of the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century, at least 46 were challenged or banned, including nine of the top 10.   Books like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Catch-22, The Kite Runner, Slaughterhouse Five, and To Kill a Mockingbirdeach considered to be important American classics, have all been subjects of challenges or been banned. 

To celebrate Banned Books Week, and our ability to read what we want, our Great Books Great Libraries selections for the last week of September and all of October are Banned Books.  For more information on Banned Books Week, check out the ALA website

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