The Lockdown on Literature

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From September 25th – October 1st, ongoing mugshots are being taken and displayed on a board when you walk into the Kellenberger Library. Their seemingly innocent faces are stiff, posed for the incriminating photographs. Clenched within their hands are contraband–books that are frequently challenged or banned from libraries, bookstores, and schools due to their alleged insidious content.

Surprisingly, the act of restricting the accessibility of reading materials is far from passé, it’s something that often happens today.

The mission of Banned Books Week is to promote a national, annual campaign to combat the restriction of books. It brings together a community of teachers, authors, journalists, publicists, librarians and readers to rally for the same cause.

Censorship of knowledge–of limiting different worldviews–occurs on a frequent basis across the United States. The American Library Association tries to raise awareness of this by informing the public of books that have often been opposed or are in the process of being removed from shelves.

When asked about the significance of Banned Books Week, Steve Silver, the Library Director at NCU responded, “As we raise awareness, one important principle against fighting censorship is to not remove the information, but to supply more information. Having information accessible gives people the choice to read multiple perspectives on a topic and come to their own conclusion.”

Several well-known examples of challenged books are: The Diary of Anne Frank, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and a multitude of many others. In addition, though it is not simply a book, the Holy Bible is perhaps the world’s most famous banned book of all literary time.

Macie Gale, a student library worker at NCU stated, “I think it’s important to recognize issues in our society, in this case, people wanting to hide certain aspects about life. You can create a picture of a perfect world–by having perfect books–with nothing controversial in them, but that’s not life.”

Moreover, limiting the freedom to read and have access to books that may offend some readers, but could potentially educate others, is an infringement on the liberty for people to make their own intellectual decisions. The movement to keep books accessible and available is a vital aspect of what makes libraries valuable, diverse and well-rounded environments to gain knowledge.

Karen Head, NCU’s Public Services Supervisor, posed an interesting question: “To think about librarians and others banning books from shelves because they didn’t agree with the content…well, it’s a slippery slope. Once you start doing that, what would be left?”

Perhaps not much would be left at all, but there are free ‘I read banned books’ pins waiting for you in the campus library.

More banned book information here: http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/
Northwest Christian University’s Kellenberger Library policies: http://www.nwcu.edu/academics/library/library-policies/
ALA’s Library Bill of Rights: http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/librarybill