Banned Books Week is next week

Banned Books Week is next week. ALA has nifty little web badges that they have made freely available and, in typical ALA fashion, given a bunch of instructions for how you’re supposed to use them (link to this URL, include this ALT text, etc.). If it were me, I think I’d just put the images on my own server, give people the HTML to include the image on their site and use some handy stats-tracker to keep track of how many people had been viewing the banned books buttons, maybe even in realtime. That would be cool. Oh wait, I can do that.

Want to use it? Copy this HTML (and mind the line breaks): <a href=”http://newprotest.org/details.pl?495″><img src=”http://librarian.net/tempo/bbw.gif”/></a> and thank the folks at newprotest who made it originally.

If it were me, I’d definitely make sure that the main Banned Books Page was a bit better at explaining why Banned Books Week exists, rather than just linking me right to the ALA store. ALA’s Action Guide is probably a better place to start.

Each year, the American Library Association (ALA) is asked why the week is called Banned Books Week instead of Challenged Books Week, since the majority of the books featured during the week are not banned, but “merely” challenged. There are two reasons. One, ALA does not “own” the name Banned Books Week, but is just one of several cosponsors of BBW; therefore, ALA cannot change the name without all the cosponsors agreeing to a change. Two, none want to do so, primarily because a challenge is an attempt to ban or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A successful challenge would result in materials being banned or restricted.

So this is saying two things really: one, they can’t change the name; two, they wouldn’t change it if they could. Couldn’t you just say that? Why is this explanation so obtuse? “none want to do so because…” because why? I’d be much happier if they’d just said “Look, we sank $5000 into t-shirts that we haven’t sold yet. We’re keeping the name” And if this question is asked every year, shouldn’t it maybe be on the FAQ by now? Since ALA talks so much about its cosponsors, let’s look at what they’re doing this year

Since ALA is really the main go-to organization for this “holiday”, maybe it’s time they had more of a destination site (ireadbannedbooks.org is taken, sadly) instead of just cramming all their information into the ALA template and enduring terrible URLs (link goes to “quick and easy” guide to BBW for librarians, wouldn’t you like to write down that URL and share it?) This would beat pseudoparticipatory pages like the Vote for Your Favorite Banned Book page which is clearly geared towards the YA crowd which asks you WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CHALLENGED BOOK (PICK ONE) (emphasis theirs). It also highlights the thing we know about Banned Books Week that we don’t talk about much — the bulk of these books are challenged by parents for being age-inappropriate for children. While I think this is still a formidable thing for librarians to deal with, it’s totally different from people trying to block a book from being sold at all.

My plan is to spend this year’s Banned Books Week reflecting on the nature of intolerance, predjudice and flat-out anxiety, motivators that causes people to want to control the ideas and issues that other people can have access to. Libraries and schools are two places that this happens in the public sphere, but we all know there are many more. So buy a bracelet if you want to, but don’t kid yourself that you can shop your way out of this problem. You can’t buy a ticket to freedom, not one that works anyhow.

update: 1,272 4,785 hits on the image so far!

8 Responses to “Banned Books Week is next week”

  1. Nur mein Standpunkt » Nächste Woche: Banned Books Week Says:

    [...] Hiermit geschehen. [Kudos an Librarian.net] [...]

  2. bitacle.org Says:

    Bitacle Blog Search Archive – Banned Books Week is next week…

    [...] Banned Books Week is next week. [...]…

  3. Melissa Says:

    I think you are absolutely right about this. What is the purpose of banned books week? To get the books out there or merchandising for ALA? Is it an awareness campaign to talk about the “freedom to read”? Define what this is for me. I love it but I don’t know why I should buy into it.

  4. Jessica Says:

    The link to the free printable posters was a godsend at this very moment, as I scramble to assemble my display. No budget means no posters, so, yay, I’m using the free ones. Thanks!

  5. don warner saklad dsaklad@gnu.org Says:

    Even while promoting banned books week our cities’ public libraries censor their own public records of themselves as an institution from staff, from users. Grey literature of our cities’ public libraries, public records, public archival records need to be a focus of intellectual freedom, freedom to read, FOI freedom of information with respect to our cities’ public libraries’ public records. Ask to read consultants’ reports, studies on your favorite cities’ public libraries. Ask to read curatorial department heads’ reports of your favorite cities’ public libraries.

  6. SafeLibraries.org Says:

    It is refreshing to hear the truth from concerned librarians such as yourself, not the propaganda from ALA leadership, and I quote you, “It also highlights the thing we know about Banned Books Week that we don’t talk about much — the bulk of these books are challenged by parents for being age-inappropriate for children. While I think this is still a formidable thing for librarians to deal with, it’s totally different from people trying to block a book from being sold at all.”

    When I get time I may add this to our Good Librarians page. Thank you for your honesty. Who knows, maybe ALA leadership will start calling YOU a censor now.

  7. randus Says:

    it is really refresing to hear someone standing up against the government it is totally cool. i love people like you

  8. Libraryola » Carnival of the Infosciences #55 Says:

    [...] Banned Books Week is this week. Jessamyn West of librarian.net analyses the ALA’s efforts to promote and maintain the observance in her post “Banned Books Week is next week” (which obviously was written last week). [...]