Banned Book Week ran from the 1 -7 October. Sefton Libraries celebrated the event, which aims to highlight the value of free and open access to information.
Banned Book Week
Banned Book Week was first launched in the US in 1982 and has now become popular around the world.
The event started after a number of libraries, bookstores and schools faced challenges over the types of books they advertised. The rise in calls to ban certain books was largely due to members of the public not being happy about books being published which did not align with their own ideas and values.
Over the course of Banned Book Week, individuals are encouraged to read books which have been banned from certain countries, or across periods of history. The event aims to bring together the book community, including educators, publishers, authors and readers, to show support for the freedom to seek and express ideas.
This year’s theme was “Let Freedom Read!” with its stated intention of drawing attention to the censorship of certain books, including books which are currently being ‘challenged’, (a request to ban the entire book) for various reasons.
Such reasons for book ‘challenges’ include banning a book for sharing ideologies that do not align with the views of a government or religion, and sympathetically depicting activities which are illegal in some countries, such as homosexual relationships.
As an event that originated in the US, Banned Book Week shared a collection of books which were the most challenged in the States in 2022. Books on the list include The Perks of Being a Wall Flower by Stephen Chbosky, which includes themes of sexual abuse, drug use and LGTBQIA+ content and Looking for Alaska by John Green for its sexually explicit and LGBTQIA+ content.
In the UK, many books have been banned both by the Government or by individual institutions. For example, Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone was banned in some schools for its depictions of witchcraft and wizardry, which were deemed ‘inappropriate’ as the book presented the occult in a fun and friendly manner. In 1918, Despised and Rejected by Rose Larue Allatini (under the pseudonym A T Fitzroy) was banned by the Government for speaking negatively about Britain’s involvement in WW1 and for sympathetically depicting male homosexuality.
Now in its 41st year, Banned Book Week is even more significant, with the number of books being challenged in the US reaching record highs. In 2022, there were over 2,500 requests to ban books – up 60% from 2021.
In Sefton, libraries across the area have celebrated the week with Banned Book displays.
In Bootle Library, each book on display has been banned in some countries at certain points in time, including Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird and Margaret Atwood’s The Testament, and contain an information card explaining both why and where the books were banned.
In a statement, Sefton Libraries said: “We’ve seen in the last few days, on our social media channels and in person, that this has ignited a fair amount of discussion and debate about what books should be banned (if any) and the need for free access to challenging literature – which was exactly our intention!”
As a public library service, Sefton Libraries believe it is their responsibility to provide a wealth of information, even if such information can be considered complex or challenging.
In the US, this has become a prevalent topic for debate. While elementary schools can omit certain books from their libraries, thereby censoring children to issues such as race or gender, many oppose this and advocate for the freedom to read.
They added: “All people also deserve to see themselves represented in books, both in stories and non-fiction, regardless of ethnicity, sexuality or gender identity, attempts to curtail that freedom does individuals and the communities they belong to a grave disservice.”
Although Banned Book Week has now passed, the books on display are still available to borrow from the libraries.