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Banned Books, Censorship, & Intellectual Freedom: About Banned Books Week

resources and further information about why books are banned and what books have been banned recently

Banned Books Week

Books Unite Us | Censorship Divides Us

Banned Books Week

September 18-24, 2022


Banned Books Week

What is Banned Books Week?

Banned Books Week is an annual event designed to spotlight current and historic attempts to censor books in both libraries and schools.  It also celebrates the freedom to read and draws national attention to the harms of censorship.  Most recently, "ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 729 challenges to library, school and university materials and services in 2021, resulting in more than 1,597 individual book challenges or removals. Most targeted books were by or about Black or LGBTQIA+ persons." (American Library Association)  Despite the number of challenges recorded, surveys indicate that the majority of book challenges (82-97%) remain unreported. (American Library Association)

Year Challenges Books Targeted
2021 729 1,597
2020 156 273
2019 377 566
2018 347 483
2017 354 416

Is there a difference between a ban and a challenge?

The term "banned books" is often used interchangeably with "challenged books", but there is a difference between the two.  A ban is the removal of material from a curriculum or library.  A challenge is an attempt to remove material from a curriculum or library.  (About Banned & Challenged Books, American Library Association)

Why do books get challenged?

Often challenges are motivated by a desire to protect children from “inappropriate” sexual content or “offensive” language. The following were the top three reasons cited for challenging materials as reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom:

  1. the material was considered to be "sexually explicit"
  2. the material contained "offensive language"
  3. the materials was "unsuited to any age group"

Although this is a commendable motivation, Free Access to Libraries for Minors, an interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights (ALA's basic policy concerning access to information) states that, “Librarians and governing bodies should maintain that parents—and only parents—have the right and the responsibility to restrict the access of their children—and only their children—to library resources.” Censorship by librarians of constitutionally protected speech, whether for protection or for any other reason, violates the First Amendment.

As Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., in Texas v. Johnson , said most eloquently: "If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable." (American Library Association)

What can I do to help stop books from being banned?

There are a number of resources for this!  You can

Books Unite Us - information about Banned Book Week