Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Banned Books Week 2013

September 22 began Banned Books Week--seven days when libraries and educators encourage everyone to consider the history and effects of censorship. Librarians are a varied group of people--they have different belief systems and different politics; yet, did you know that American librarians subscribe to an ethical code? Right?! Number two on that list reads, "We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources."  Yet the question still remains, "Why?" I mean shouldn't some materials be censored? Aren't some books* dangerous?

Well, yes; ideas are dangerous, just as they are vital, challenging, and absolutely necessary. Censorship is so offensive because at it's center it is dehumanizing. It makes that assumption that the reader does not have the intellectual capacity to disagree with an opinion, or to recognize the difference between written narratives and the realities of his or her life. Censorship is also dehumanizing to the censor as it limits one of humans' greatest strengths: communication. No longer can the censor have a conversation with another as that information has been removed from the dialogue entirely. Being human is to swim in a world of ideas and communicate those in order to learn more about the world.

twitter banned books
Banned Books Week on Twitter

We must accept the responsibilities posed by education, by knowledge, and by wisdom. If we are lucky enough to have free access to information, then I think we must also take responsibility for our communities, and for making sure that freedom of information is played forward to others. Kurt Vonnegut once stated that, "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Wisdom is gained through experience and dialogue and sometimes, if we are lucky, through observation (either of real people and situations or those found in books and movies). (To take a look at some other literary greats' thoughts on censorship, take a look here.) So this is a good week to go visit your local library! Check out a banned book!

*And let's not get started about comics! The Comic Code Authority came about mostly thanks to this guy, and we've felt the impact ever since. Comics are some of the least recognized, but most often challenged and banned books. Luckily we have the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund today and they are totally worth checking out.