Throughout the United States, children are returning to school. Teachers are sending out their lists of required readings, and parents are beginning to gather books. In some cases, classics like “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “The Catcher in the Rye,” and “To Kill a Mocking Bird,” may not be included in curricula or available in the school library due to challenges made by parents or administrators. Since 1990, the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) has recorded more than 10,000 book challenges, including 513 in 2008. A challenge is a formal, written complaint requesting a book be removed from library shelves or school curricula.
It takes a commitment on the part of librarians, teachers, parents, and students, to ensure that most challenges are unsuccessful and reading materials like “Pillars of the Earth,” “The Kite Runner,” the Harry Potter series, and the Twilight series remain available. Even when the motivation to ban or challenge a book is well intentioned, the outcome is detrimental. Censorship denies our freedom as individuals to choose and think for ourselves. In support of the right to choose books freely for ourselves, the St. Ambrose University Library will host several events during Banned Books Week [September 26−October 3, 2009], an annual celebration of our right to access books without censorship. This year’s observance commemorates the most basic freedom in a democratic society—the freedom to read freely—and encourages us not to take this freedom for granted. Since its inception in 1982, Banned Books Week has reminded us that while not every book is intended for every reader, each of us has the right to decide for ourselves what to read, listen to or view. American libraries are the cornerstones of our democracy. Libraries are for everyone, everywhere. Because libraries provide free access to a world of information, they bring opportunity to all people. Now, more than ever, celebrate the freedom to read @ your library!