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By: Andrea Lhotka, Public Services Librarian
For: Red Rock News
Date: September 25
, 2010

Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read

Banned Books Week is an annual event promoting the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment.  Since its inception in 1982, Banned Books Week has reminded us that while not every book is intended for every reader, each of us has the right to decide for ourselves what to read, listen to or view.

Sedona Public Library and thousands of libraries and bookstores across the country will celebrate the freedom to read by participating in special events, exhibits, and book readings that showcase books that have been banned or threatened. The Sedona Public Library will be hosting a BBW book reading as well as a Flicker Shack movie presentation and display.

More than a thousand books have been challenged since 1982. The challenges have occurred in every state, in hundreds of communities by persons of every political and philosophical persuasion you can imagine.  Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bans of books across the United States.  Intellectual freedom—the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular—provides the foundation for Banned Books Week.  

In 2009, the American Library Association's (ALA) has recorded 460 book challenges. According to ALA “a challenge is a formal, written complaint requesting a book be removed from library shelves or school curriculum.”  Targets range from books that explore contemporary issues and controversies to classic and beloved works of American literature.  The ALA notes books "usually are challenged with the best intentions—to protect others, frequently children, from difficult ideas and information."  Some of the most famous challenges have been to works widely considered classics of American literature, including Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, and John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. In terms of recent popular fiction the highly popular Harry Potter series comes to mind.

On Tuesday, October 5 at 6 p.m. Sedona Public Library will host a Banned Book Reading featuring poetry, essay, books, and musical performances.  Local poets, essayists and friends will read from classic novels, popular fiction and even original works in celebration of the freedom of speech and diversity of literature. 

From September 27 through the first week of October you can catch the Banned Books Week display – “What’s in your criminal background?”  Come down to the library and have your mug-shot taken with your favorite banned book!  Watch out though, these books have criminal records. 

On Monday, September 27 at 6 p.m. Sedona Public Library will show a film based on Ken Kesey’s book One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest starring Jack Nicholson.  According to the ALA this book was challenged in an Aberdeen WA high school for promoting secular humanism.  The school board did not remove the title from the curriculm. 

Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Library Association, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the Association of American Publishers, and endorsed by the Center for the Book of the Library of Congress.


Andrea Lhotka
Library News appears each Friday in the Red Rock News and is also presented on:  Gateway to Sedona and Sedona Biz.
Andrea Lhotka, author of this week's article, is Public Services Librarian of the Sedona Public Library.