Library 101: Banned Books Week

Posted on: Thursday, October 24th, 2013 by Jody Hanshew

What do The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, Beloved by Toni Morrison, The Sun also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien all have in common?  These titles, among others, have been banned from libraries and schools in the US at one time or another.  Freedom of speech, and reading, is something most of us take for granted.  It is guaranteed by the First Amendment.  Yet, individuals and small groups have successfully persuaded some officials that reading certain things is a threat to society.  How many of you have read Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury?   This title, first published in 1967, is about a government that knows books can share ideas.  One of the ways the government in the book tries to control its people is to limit their access to information by confiscating and burning books.  The title refers to the temperature at which paper burns.

Libraries will celebrate Banned Book Week for 2013 during the week of Sept. 22-28.  The American Library Association has a webpage to help anyone interested in intellectual freedom learn more.  According to their website “Intellectual freedom—the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular—provides the foundation for Banned Books Week.  BBW stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints for all who wish to read and access them.”

Attempts to ban books are not some archaic practice from the last century; many of them are very recent.  ALA reports    “Over the past nine years, [2001-2009] American [public and school] libraries were faced with 4,312 challenges.

1,413 for “sexually explicit” material;

1,125 for “offensive language”;

897 for material deemed “unsuited to age group”;

514 for “violence”

344 for “homosexuality”

Further, 109 materials were challenged because they were “anti-family,” and an additional 269 because of their “religious viewpoints.”

Kelly Library has a small collection of children’s classics that were banned or challenged on display. To see the complete list of banned children’s classic books, check out the titles at Buzzfeed ( Some of our titles include:

The Diary of a Young Girl / Anne Frank  DS135.N6 F73313. Banned for sexual content, homosexual themes, and being depressing.  This book has been challenged as recently as May 2013.

Where’s Waldo / Martin Handford  JUV PZ7.H1918 Wh 1997.  Several versions of this title include a topless female sunbather in the beach scenes.

The Captain Underpants series tops the list of children’s books (we don’t have any of these).  The reasons include offensive language and inappropriate for the age group.

Winnie-the-Pooh / A. A. Milne  JUV PZ7.M64 Wo 1985.  Banned because talking animals are an insult to God, and there are claims of ties to Nazism.

James and the Giant Peach / Roald Dahl  JUV PR6054 .A35.  This book has the word “ass” in it.

Harriet the spy / Louise Fitzhugh  JUV Z7.F5768 Har.  Banned for setting a bad example for children as it teaches them to lie, talk back, curse, and spy.

Kelly Library challenges everyone to think dangerously and read a banned book.

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