An important part of a librarian’s job is being an intellectual freedom fighter. September 22-28 is nationally recognized as Banned Books Week and celebrates books that have been challenged for having objectionable content. Any work is potentially open to attack by someone, somewhere, sometime, for some reason. Those who make complaints are censoring materials based on their own moral, political, or religious beliefs. This practice is constitutionally unlawful in regards to the first amendment. The Freedom to Read Foundation summaries this concept nicely, by stating: “Free People Read Freely.” There is nothing wrong with self-censoring, but when individual or select-group opinions are presented as for the good of all, it violates a basic human right recognized by our forefathers in the US Constitution.
A large number of challenged books are identified by censors as “harmful to children.” Over the course of the last 30 years, some of the challenged books include classics such as: To Kill a Mockingbird, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and more recently recognized the Harry Potter series. There are hundreds of books targeted by censors each year as containing violence, profanity, or racially sensitive wording. It is understandable that parents may have issues about what their children could be exposed to and it is within parents’ rights to restrict the reading materials of their own child.
But, public libraries belong to everyone, and collections should be representative of society‘s knowledge. We all know the world isn’t “Pleasantville.” What may be shocking to some is often ordinary to others. Mark Twain is quoted as saying, "Censorship is telling a man he can't have a steak just because a baby can't chew it." Visit the library today and celebrate your freedom to read!