Monday, September 29, 2008

Banned Books Week: what the heck are "banned books?"

"Banned Books" is somewhat of a misnomer, because what is generally meant by the term is actually "challenged books." Many books are challenged -- or asked to be withdrawn from libraries -- though few are actually banned. This is an area where type of library is significant, as the public library vs. the school media center vs. the school curriculum are all very different. Indeed, there is seldom a mention of banned books in university or corporate libraries.

The American Library Association's website notes the distinction between banned & challenged books, but also notes that they do not own the name. Banned Books Week is sponsored by a consortium. From the bannedbooksweek.org website:

Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Library Association, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the Association of American Publishers, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and the National Association of College Stores. Banned Books Week is also endorsed by the Center for the Book of the Library of Congress.
ALA also notes there is no movement to change the name because "a challenge is an attempt to ban or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group." ALA maintains lists of frequently challenged materials, year by year. From 1991 to 2007, the following titles appeared on the most annual lists:
  1. The Chocolate War - Robert Cormier (12)
  2. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou (10)
  3. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck (10)
  4. Bridge to Terabithia - Katherine Paterson (9)
  5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain (8)
  6. Alice Series - Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (7)
  7. Forever - Judy Blume (6)
  8. Scary Stories Series - Alvin Schwartz (6)
  9. Fallen Angels - Walter Dean Meyers (5)
  10. Harry Potter - J.K. Rowling (5)
  11. It’s Perfectly Normal - Robie Harris (5)
  12. The Catcher in the Rye - J. D. Salinger (5)
You should be able to find all of these in our catalog and on our shelves.

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