Celebrating Banned Books Week


By: Kristin Bennett

Director of Library Services




Did you know that librarians and libraries have a list of moral guidelines that they follow? This list is called the ‘American Library Association’s Code of Ethics’ (for more information check out http://www.ala.org/advocacy/proethics/codeofethics/codeethics). Most librarians strive hard to uphold these standards in their own personal conduct and within their libraries. Today I am going to talk about the 2nd rule on the list which states:


II We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources.


Censorship is and has been, a major area of concern for libraries for a long time. As institutions which promote a democratic access to all types of knowledge, libraries are extremely sensitive to any attempts to remove items from their collections. That is why every September, libraries around the country celebrate Banned Books Week.

Banned Books Week runs from September 25th-October 1st this year. During this week libraries highlight books that have been challenged and banned within libraries and schools and advocate for greater understanding of diverse viewpoints in literature. Banned Books Week first started in 1982 to combat the rising number of books that were being challenged. According to the American Library Association more than 11,300 books have been challenged throughout this time, and this reflects only about a 30-40% report rate of censorship attempts. Last year 45% of challenges happened at public libraries. In case you are wondering if books are ever challenged here in the Henry County Library the answer is yes.

Every year the American Library Association compiles a list of the most frequently challenged books from the previous year. The 2015 most frequently challenged books were:

  1. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
  2. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James
    Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and other (“poorly written,” “concerns that a group of teenagers will want to try it”).
  3. I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
    Reasons: Inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint, and unsuited for age group.
  4. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin
    Reasons: Anti-family, offensive language, homosexuality, sex education, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“wants to remove from collection to ward off complaints”).
  5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
    Reasons: Offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“profanity and atheism”).
  6. The Holy Bible
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint.
  7. Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
    Reasons: Violence and other (“graphic images”).
  8. Habibi, by Craig Thompson
    Reasons: Nudity, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
  9. Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, by Jeanette Winter
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, and violence.
  10. Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan
    Reasons: Homosexuality and other (“condones public displays of affection”).


If you have a chance to make it to the Henry County Library during the month of September please take time to check out our Banned Books display. We have highlighted frequently challenged titles as well as challenged patrons to check out and read a controversial book.

In fighting censorship it is up to all patrons to realize that everyone has differing viewpoints and what might be offensive to some might be of interest to others. The library’s role is to provide access to a diverse range of materials, not to decide what materials are right and wrong for people to read. To quote Jessica Herthel, author of ‘I Am Jazz’ (number 3 most challenged book of 2015):

“Please urge your children’s schools to read inclusive books of all kind. Despite what [some groups] would like you to believe, diversity is not something to fear, it is not a subject of controversy, and it sure isn’t going away. Rather, teaching our little ones to love instead of hate should be the least controversial lesson of all.” (Jessica Herthel in “Author Confronts School Who Banned Her Book,” Yahoo News, December 4 2015.)