October 22, 2020

The American Library Association (ALA) held Banned Books Week between Sept. 27 to Oct. 3, to raise awareness about censorship. This year’s theme was “Censorship is a Dead End. Find Your Freedom to Read.”

Banned Books Week was not only celebrated in the U.S., but also in Canada. Lisa Weaver, the Director of Collections and Program Development at the Hamilton Public Library, said: “Hamilton Public Library often has displays, programs and book lists with banned books during Banned Books Week.”

Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. It is promoted by the ALA, and consists of events such as displays, Q&A’s, programs and webinars. COVID-19 has not affected a majority of these events, but has changed the way in which such events were viewed: Q&A’s, programs and webinars were streamed online. 

Banned and challenged novels have slowly increased during the years. In 2017, more than 350 books were challenged in schools, libraries in universities. In 2018, a total of 483 books were challenged or banned, according to the ALA. 

Banned books are novels which are prohibited by the law, and are not accessible to the public. Challenged books are novels which are being questioned, and debated on whether or not it should be banned. Novels that are banned or challenged often clash with society’s political, religious, or moral views. Examples of banned/challenged books are The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald; To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee; and Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. 

Banned Books Week brings everyone in the book community– librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers and readers– together to advocate against the censorship of literature.

“Banned Books Week is a great way for all libraries to show some of the important work we do to facilitate access to diverse resources for the communities we service,” Weaver said. 

A majority of banned/challenged novels have remained available to the public, thanks to the effort of the book community who speak out for the right and freedom to read all books. Banned Books Week is not just a week to justify novels, but to celebrate literature that was saved due to people speaking up for what they believe is just. 

“Intellectual freedom at its core creates the foundation for a conversation on the different viewpoints readers have on materials. I believe both intellectual freedom and diverse reading materials are both areas library members are aware of.” Weaver said. “I think it is important that libraries include materials in their collections for all members of the community and Banned Books Week is an opportunity to create awareness of the variety of materials library members can access.” 

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