October 02, 2012

Challenges and Bans

We threw alot of information out earlier this week, with links scattered all over the place, regarding Banned Books Week, which running through October 6th.  I hope you'll come to us with any questions you may have, and we will continue to share information with you.

Many people think of censorship of something we don't really have to worry about anymore.  It's something that happened a long time ago, maybe in the U.S.S.R., or in Germany during World War II.  Maybe it happened in the U.S., but only before the 1800s and only in small towns.  Right?

Nope.

To censor, the word used as a verb, can involve cutting out a portion or a book (or movie or article, etc.), like redacting almost, or to ban a work entirely, to try to make it completely unavailable in a setting (in a school, at a library, in a town, county, state, or country).

In 2011, in the U.S. the Office for Intellectual Freedom (a part of the American Library Association) received 326 challenges to books.  Here's a short list of books from last year that received the most challenges:

ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle, for offensive language; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
The Color of Earth (series), by Kim Dong Hwa, for nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins, for anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence
My Mom's Having A Baby! A Kid's Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy, by Dori Hillestad Butler, for nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie, for offensive language; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
Alice (series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, for nudity; offensive language; religious viewpoint
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, for insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit
What My Mother Doesn't Know, by Sonya Sones, for nudity; offensive language; sexually explicit
Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily Von Ziegesar, for drugs; offensive language; sexually explicit
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, for offensive language; racism
Some of these books are classics and have been on the list before, and some are making their first appearance here. There is some really interesting information on the recent history of challenges as reported to the American Library Association (ALA).  Check out some of these graphs (below)-- click to view enlarged images.
challenges by initiatorchallenges by yearChallenges by Reason, 1990-2010

Although the number of challenges has been trending downward for some time (see the pink graph above), defending a book's placement in a library or defending a reader's right to that book is still a very real part of librarianship.

Topping the list for 2012 will surely be Fifty Shades of Grey, which has been censored-- purposefully not purchased and even, in some cases, removed from shelves-- by some libraries in Wisconsin, Georgia, and Florida.  Some of these libraries had purchased the book, shelved it, circulated it, then withdrew it in reaction to reviews and public comment. 

Graphs and lists were borrowed from the Banned Books Week web page of the ALA web site.  Information about libraries censoring Fifty Shades of Grey came from the Huffington Post.  [see Blog Information Policy.]

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