“Just because a book is different from one’s lived experience, or makes you uncomfortable due to its subject matter, does not make it questionable. A story that causes one reader to question their own personal biases or cultural understanding may be the same story that allows another reader to truly be seen and represented in literature.”
– Jodi Picoult, author of Nineteen Minutes
Banned Books Week, October 1 – October 7, 2023, is a nationwide celebration of the freedom to seek and express ideas. The initiative invites the book community, including readers, authors, publishers, booksellers, educators, and librarians, to highlight the value of free and open access to information and to encourage readers to possibly pick up a banned book to discover for themselves what’s inside.
Richland Library will be taking part in Banned Books Week with curated collections, Banned Books displays, and special buttons that encourage everyone to defend ideas and read freely. If you want to learn more about challenged books you can find at Richland Library, check out the blog series I’m With the Banned, in which staff explore why you might want to pick up a book that faced a ban or challenge.
The number of book challenges and bans across the United States, however, has only continued to increase exponentially. In 2021, the number of book bans nearly doubled from those issued in 2020, and in 2022, that number of challenges nearly doubled again with more than 2,500 different books under scrutiny in schools and libraries. In a 2022 report Banned in the USA, PEN America explains that this dramatic uptick is, in part, due to the efforts of organized advocacy groups, who provide curated lists of “radical” books and training to navigate the challenge process. In short, while in the past, book challenges arose spontaneously from parents about particular books they may have found their child reading, the majority of recent book challenges are made by those who have not read the books in question and instead demand censorship for any books that share particular ideas or stories.
Richland Library is dedicated to providing an inclusive collection of materials with the widest range possible of viewpoints, opinions, and ideas. Banned Books Week is an annual reminder that a book that might offend, shock, or even bore one reader may be meaningful or significant to another. Readers have the right to make choices best for themselves and their families, but no one person or group has the right to deny access to or limit the materials available to others.