Imagine you’re visiting your local library, looking for your favorite book or the newest recommendation from a friend. Now imagine you discover it has been removed from the library after being challenged by someone who decided it was obscene or vulgar. How would you feel? Angry? Indignant?
For many, particularly school-aged students, this is a reality, as hundreds of books are challenged and removed in schools and libraries each year; in fact, “there was an alarming 17 percent increase in book censorship complaints in 2016.” As a result of this unfortunate trend, the annual Banned Books Week, which this year will take place from Sept. 24 to Sept. 30, was born. The celebration highlights the First Amendment, “which guarantees our inherent right to read,” freely and without censorship. This fight, supported by the Banned Books Week Coalition (BBWC), “brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers — in shared support of the freedom to seek and express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular;” it is a reminder of the respect we must have towards the different views and opinions held by our fellow humans.
Looking at a map of censorship from 2007 to 2011, as mapped by the American Library Association (ALA), it is quite unnerving to see that the northeast is the most densely covered in incidents, three of which happened in Burlington County and nearby Camden County. How can you get involved with the fight against censorship and help keep it from affecting our libraries? You can speak out and stress the importance of the freedom to read, stay informed and notify the Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) if you hear a book being challenged. And most importantly, you can exercise your right to read by checking out a banned book.