Thursday, October 4, 2012

Banning / Challenging Books

Most of the challenges counted for Banned Books Week come from one of two places: parents complaining about books in a school curriculum because they don't consider them age-appropriate, or people trying to remove the book from a library's shelves. In the latter situation, I am happy to announce that most of the time, the book stays put. See, librarians - despite our stereotype of stuffy old ladies shushing people and glaring at anyone who doesn't understand the classification system - are champions of freedom of information. Why else would we choose to spend all our time helping people find their way around an enormous repository of information and stories? But more on librarian stereotypes another day... back to the banned books.

Sometimes the complaint is that the book doesn't belong in the youth or teen section, so the book gets moved to the adult section. It stays in the library so that the people who want it can still access it, but the complainer is still satisfied. But requesting to pull a book off adult shelves is - in most areas and most libraries - a waste of time.

If you don't understand why it's not fair to try to pull a book of a library's shelves, think of it this way: John is allergic to peanuts and his mom wants the grocery store to stop selling peanut butter, even though it's your favorite food. Is that fair? I didn't think so.

This is why I (and the ALA) mostly refer to what we think of as banned books as "challenged books." It's more correct because, in America, we don't really ban books. A book might get banned from a curriculum or a school or sometimes a library, but mostly they're just challenged by people who don't understand that their views are not shared by everyone else, and the books remain accessible.

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