What do the Harry Potter books, “Captain Underpants” and “Thirteen Reasons Why” have in common? At some point, each one has been challenged or banned in libraries or schools. Banned Books Week, an annual celebration sponsored by the American Library Association, helps raise awareness of efforts to ban books and highlights our freedom to read. This year’s theme is “Censorship Leaves Us in the Dark. Keep the Light On!”
The South Florida State College (SFSC) Library hosts a weeklong celebration Sept. 23–27 featuring displays, activities, and Banned Book Mystery Dating. Banned Book Mystery Dating allows anyone to check out an unknown book in a plain brown wrapper for a surprising read. Through a partnership with the Heartland Library Cooperative, public library card holders in good standing may check out SFSC Library books year-round.
Since its inception in 1982, Banned Books Week reminds 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. The SFSC Library and thousands of colleges, schools, libraries, and bookstores across the country will celebrate the freedom to read by participating in special events and exhibits that showcase books that have been banned, threatened, or burned.
Since 1990, the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) has recorded more than 10,000 book challenges, including 347 in 2018. This year’s 11 most challenged books include titles challenged for LGBTQIA+ themes, profanity, mentions of sexual activities, and accusations of being “anti-cop.” The most challenged or restricted reading materials have been books for children. Even if the motivation to ban or challenge a book is well intentioned, censorship denies the freedom to individuals to choose and think for themselves.
The list also notes that several of the titles were burned in an effort to stifle the American public’s right to read freely. Thanks to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, and students, most challenges are unsuccessful, and reading materials like “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” “Slaughterhouse Five,” the Harry Potter series, and the Hunger Games series remain available.The SFSC Library is located on the Highlands Campus, 600 W. College Dr., in Building Y and is open Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit southflorida.edu/library or contact Claire Miller, SFSC librarian, at MillerC@southflorida.edu or 863-784-7305.