Banned Books Week
Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores, and libraries.
Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.
A Message from Library Director Kent Oliver
As Guest Columnist for the Tennessean
Banned Books, Disinformation, and How Public Libraries are the Solution | Opinion
In the U.S. 78% of citizens trust the public library as the place to find reliable, fact-based information, as opposed to lower trust for mass media and elected officials.
Challenges against books are nothing new, and they’re the reason why libraries and their communities are once again celebrating your right to read by observing Banned Books Week, Sept. 26-Oct. 2.
Books and authors have always been targeted for censorship and/or being “cancelled.” This is because of opposition to content along religious, moral, and other grounds, as well as mistrust in the “other side.”
These actions stand in direct contrast to the rights outlined in both the First Amendment and libraries’ fundamental belief in the American Library Association’s (ALA) Library Bill of Rights.
By the Numbers
Important Subjects Are Stifled
From 2015 through 2020, the ALA tracked 1,832 formal challenges against more than 1,700 books.1 Some of the most common topics that were challenged include:
- LGBTQIA+ content
- Discussion/description of sexual acts
- Presenting an anti-police viewpoint
- Promoting a particular religious viewpoint
- Course or vulgar language
- Racist material
Censorship Decreases Trust
These challenges against and mistrust in information aren't limited to books. Trust in many sources that have traditionally been viewed as reliable is declining.
- Gallup reports that only about 40% of Americans have any level of trust in mass media, with Democrats being far more trusting than Republicans.2
- Pew reports that only about 24% of Americans trust government officials in Washington to “do the right thing.”3
- The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that only 52% of Americans have a “Great Deal of Trust” in the CDC.4
- The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer found that trust in Big Tech had fallen to 57% amongst Americans, while trust in news and general information sources had reached an all time low.5, pg. 27
Politics Where They Don't Belong
Political polarization is the most cited factor driving this growing mistrust and need to silence, or “cancel,” opposing viewpoints.
- While it’s not clear if we’re more divided now than ever before along ideological lines, it can’t be denied that we’re widely divided, with 92% of Republicans falling to the “right” of the median, and 94% of Democrats falling to the “left” of the median.6
- Not only is this division clear in political matters, Pew found that it’s now extending to non-political issues, including the economy, social justice, and even “basic facts.”7
- Trust in public libraries, however, remains steadily high at 78%, as Pew reported in 2017 — most adults trust public libraries to direct them to factual, unbiased information.8
Blog Feature from Tennessee Library Association
Our very own Systems Librarian Bryan Jones is part of Tennessee Library Association's Intellectual Freedom Committee. Check out some of the committee's favorite banned and/or controversial reading recommendations.
Top 20 Banned Books of 2020
This list includes the top 10 most challenged books of 2020. The ALA's Most Challenged Books list tracks attempts to ban or restrict access to books across the United States and raises awareness of censorship efforts in our libraries and schools.
Banned Books That Shaped America
The Library of Congress created an exhibit which explores books that "have had a profound effect on American life." This is a list of books from that exhibit that have been banned and/or challenged.