I’ve been down with The Crud for the past few weeks. Not really sick, but not having a lot of extra energy to get involved in things outside my own library and jobs. Banned Books Week started on Saturday and runs through this week. I’ve been invited to an evening with readings from banned books tomorrow night and I think I’m staying home.
I’m not sure if I’m getting complacent, sick of this holiday, sick generally, or there really is a lot less enthusiasm this year from years previous. The ALA page is usually my starting point and it seems a little less lively than usual. Their calendar of events is Chicago based (wouldn’t it be great if they were an aggregator to BBW activity worldwide? Does such a thing exist) and indicates to me that they still haven’t learned to resize images before uploading them. The ALAOIF blog hasn’t posted yet this week though they did link to this cute video put out by ALA which I enjoyed. The main ALA BBW page doesn’t even link to the Banned Books Week page which is supposedly the “go to” page for current information — and does have a calendar of sorts — which has a broken stylesheet declaration which makes all the pages look like they were designed in 2003.
As usual, I clicked through from the ALA web page to the home pages of all the organizations who are co-sponsors of Banned Books Week. Here’s what I found.
- The American Booksellers Association mentions BBW and offers a broken link to more information about it
- The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression is still offering its handbook from 2007
- The American Society for Journalists and Authors appears pretty busy opposing the Google settlement to mention BBW.
- The Association of American Publishers mentions that they are gearing up for this event, but not enough to really mention it on their website otherwise.
- National Association of College Stores has nothing, as usual
- LoC’s Center for the Book has one of the most awesome URLs ever and no mention of Banned Books Week that I can see.
I wonder a little bit if this is what a post-Judith Krug ALA looks like? On a brighter note, let’s look at some Banned Books Week web pages that are useful and/or interesting
- Amnesty International puts a spin on it by looking at people who are persecuted because of the writings they produce, circulate or read.
- UPenn’s Online Books page has a nice Banned Books Online page which splits out Censored/banned books from those that are deemed unsuitable for minors (i.e. age inappropriate) and has lots of terrific links
- PBS.org has a nice little reprint of some talking points from ALA
While I’m talking about this, I’d also like to mention the data on the PBS page.
According to the ALA there have been 3,736 challenges from 2001-2008:
* 1,225 challenges due to “sexually explicit” material
* 1,008 challenges due to “offensive language”
* 720 challenges due to material deemed “unsuited to age group”
* 458 challenges due to “violence”
* 269 challenges due to “homosexuality”
* 103 challenges due to “anti-family”
* 233 challenges due to “religious viewpoints”
I think we need to look hard at this list and draw some conclusions about what sort of people believe that restricting access to books for these reasons is both a good idea or a reasonable thing to expect to be able to get away with. And then, if we want to get serious, I think we need to hit these points directly and ask people why they’re afraid of sex, or gay people (or penguins), or swearing. It’s nice to say that “free people read freely” but it’s another to be in a situation where your institutions are getting pressured by people who are intolerant and thinking that speaking truth to power is all you need to do. I’ve talked a little more about this in the MetaFilter thread about Banned Books Week, it’s always a reflective time of year for me.
Also, ALA knows that BBW means something else, right?