Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Banned Books Week: let's get cynical

The sometimes annoying Annoyed Librarian writes:
Yeah, it's hard for people to get hold of a Harry Potter book, and I'm pretty sure Catcher in the Rye isn't available , either. And forget Huckleberry Finn. You can't find that darn thing anywhere, because it's been "banned." They've all been "banned"! Banned books, indeed. Enter the alternative universe of the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom, where we are always on the verge of totalitarianism because some rube in Bumflap, GA doesn't like gay penguins. Be sure to check your intellect at the door, though. Otherwise it's hard to take this stuff.
and one of her commentors, the Chatty Librarian, responds:
I'm as cynical as anyone about stuff like this usually, but I'm now living and working in a library in Egypt, where our collection doesn't hold all these banned books because, well, they're banned.

It's not stuff like Huck Finn and Harry Potter that doesn't get through, but anything that appears to be critical of the president-for-life Hosni Mubarak or otherwise offends the Egyptian censors.

You certainly won't find Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses on our library's shelves either.
Exactly. Maybe the Banned Books Week organization overstates the case, and maybe not. Just because free access to most materials may common, it does not mean we can take it for granted. We're within a lifetime of James Joyce's Ulysses being banned in the U.S., and only admitted to this country after a landmark court case. It's worth remembering and discussing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just saw you posted this... thanks for noting my comment about banned books week. I don't think I realized its full importance until I started searching for books to display.