The annual banned books week roundup for 2013

salinger's 60 years later, banned in the US

For some reason last year I didn’t do my annual roundup of Banned Books Week websites. Here is a link to the source of the image above which is from the New Yorker’s article about the JD Salinger-evocative book 60 Years Later, Coming Through the Rye which is illegal to sell in the US. You can find more news articles about that situation at the author’s small Wikipedia page. You can look at past posts on this topic by checking out the bannedbooksweek tag here or here is a list of the annual posts: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011. I skipped 2005 and 2012.

As usual, you get a neat real-time look at what’s going on by following the Twitter hashtag. Do NOT look at the bbw twitter hashtag as I mistakenly did last night. As usual there are two “main” sites the ALA site at ala.org/bbooks and the bannedbooksweek.org site which is really nice looking this year. The BannedBooksWeek Twitter account is still moribund which is a damned shame. The Virtual Read Out doesn’t seem to have any new videos this year… yet?

Please remember if you are a librarian who has a book that is challenged, report it to the ALA so they can keep track of it.

Here is the list of organizations who are co-sponsors. Let’s look at their websites.

The language of the censor is the language of the tyrant, the absolutist, the one with no vision. It is the antithesis of art because it assumes that there is only one perspective, one reality, and that anything that fails to rhyme with it is a sin against nature. But the real sin against nature is to suffocate personal truths and experiences with wobbly doctrine and to disguise it as morally just. Art— particularly literature—exists to show us there are as many worlds as there are people. Each of these worlds come with its own laws. These laws vary from person to person, but if there is one that they have in common it is to share your truth. We owe it to our humanity and our short time among other humans to respect the truths that are shared with us. – Nick Burd

Websites are working and the word is getting out. I was pleased with this year’s collections of content. What I’m concerned about, as per usual, are challenges and censorship that don’t even reach the physical items on the library shelves. What about this Salinger book? Worldcat shows 40 copies of it, a handful of which are in the US, and the reviews of it haven’t been so great anyhow. But the idea that the book wasn’t obtained and removed, it was never obtained in the first place (as we see with so much born-digital content that we can’t even get in lendable format) opens a door to all new ways that libraries can not get books. The old challenges (dirty cowboy? really? do not google that) remain and new ones appear.

not just challenged, but actual banned books – a web resource

This site deals with book censorship attempts which actually resulted in some action, even if it was later reversed.

Freedom of speech is for everyone, and includes the freedom to say “I don’t think this belongs in the library,” just as it also includes the freedom to say “sorry, but the library is for everyone in the community, including people who find this book useful” or “I can understand that you wouldn’t want your child reading books on that subject, and I can respect your opinion, but some parents do want their children reading books on that subject.”

Banned Books Week 2011, a web content rundown

It’s time for my semi-regular round up of Banned Books Week websites. You can look at past posts on this topic by checking out the bannedbooksweek tag here or here is a list of the annual posts More on the Chicago Defender.
Here are my old Banned Books Weeks posts: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. I skipped 2005.

As usual, you get a neat real-time look at what’s going on by following the Twitter hashtag. As usual there are two “main” sites the ALA site at ala.org/bbooks and the bannedbooksweek.org site. ALA has their usual site, links to shopping, links to the main site (which is a 404, oops), links to advocacy materials. They decided to do a virtual read-out instead of an in-person event and I’ve been clicking through some of the YouTube videos on the BBW channel. All the stuff I’ve seen so far seems like it would be what we call SFW [safe for work] and I’m vaguely curious if there could be something so racy that you’d get one of those “You have to be 14 to see this video” warnings up because, hey, that’s its own form of limiting speech. But I think that stuff is only for photos of people in their underwear, or maybe self-reported. The Banned Books Week main site has been up and down today and seems to mostly be pointing to the same stuff. They have a Twitter account but have never used it. The design gets better every year.

Here is the list of organizations who are co-sponsors. Let’s look at their websites.

There is also the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress who endorses Banned Books Week (though no link on their site?) as well as a few organizations who have signed on as sponsors

So I’d cautiously call this an improvement over last year. More coordinated programming, better talking between sites. I’m still looking for a good Banned Books Week Twitter list [i.e. with the sponsors] and if I don’t see one I guess I’ll make one. I’ve been enjoying the YouTube videos. My own tastes this year go to ebooks and thinking about, with the additional layer of middlemen in the ebook world of buying, licensing and lending, what it really means to be banned or censored an an ebook universe. Look for a post about pirates later in the week.

Banned Books Week as seen through its funders’ eyes

More on the Chicago Defender.
Here are my old Banned Books Weeks posts: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. I skipped 2005.

It’s time for a review of Banned Books Week. This year most of my BBW information comes from Twitter. Amusingly BBW on Twitter can mean two very different things. This is the note I put on Twitter yesterday.

“Oh look an actual attempt at, well not book banning exactly. Weird old Pentagon. http://bit.ly/cqg9PL Happy [sort of] Banned Books Week.”

Pretty sketchy story. The Pentagon bought up the entire first printing of a book published by St Martin’s Press because it “contained information which could cause damage to national security.” The second edition has come out, heavily redacted. This is one of the closer “government is telling you what you can’t read” stories that I’ve seen this year. Here’s another look at the websites that are linked from ALA’s offical BBW website ala.org/bbooks, a page that is linked from the front page, but only as one of the six “slides” that revolve through the top of the page. So, Banned Books Week is sponsored by these organizations. Let’s see what their websites look like.

One of the interesting thigns to note about the ALA list of challenges is how many of the public library challenges seem to be centered around just a few library systems. Most of these stories are ones that hit the national news and so I’ve heard about them and you probably have also.

There are also good websites to go to to learn about censorship and the larger (to me) issue of chilling effects on people’s right to live free from fear and free from silencing. Here are a few things I’ve been reading lately

Join me in a rousing song celebrating free expression, won’t you?

what’s happening from the middle of “banned books week” websites

Here are my old Banned Books Weeks posts: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2008. I skipped 2005.

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.

Even ALA’s home page doesn’t mention Banned Books Week except on page six of their slide show where they tell us what we can buy to support it.

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

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?

Banned Books Week in retrospect

Banned Books Week was last week

I’m aware that I have punted on Banned Books Week this year, but I’m okay with that. Seems like a lot of people did. Here are some of my old posts just for the record: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2007; guess I skipped it in 2005 also.

The Banned Books Week eponymous website, owned by ABFFE looks sort of the same as last year, only with new events. I really appreciate the effort they put into a nice-looking site, but in 2008 a few pages with links to other pages and one scrollable list of events worldwide seems a little flat.

ALA has been busy launching their new website and Banned Books Week didn’t even appear on the front page the last few times I looked. Their Banned Books Week pages have a slick logo (yay!) but no page titles and they’re still using our browsers to resize images which means the pages still load like crap for people in dial-up land. I know it’s picky, but I do think it’s impotant in the same way that I think ala.org/bbooks is a nicer URL to see in my address bar than any of the ones I wind up looking at. The pages I linked to on ALA.org from my 2006 post are all gone.

Additionally there’s the fact that it’s a month and change before the US elections and I’m tired of fighting with people about Sarah Palin, tired of defending the ALA against people who don’t believe in intellectual freedom for minors (when I have my own beefs with ALA, but that is not one of them) and tired, as always, of people using holiday-type events as a time when they tell me it’s okay and even patriotic to shop for things.

I worry somewhat that not wanting to have the same fights every year makes me susceptible to self-censorship, as this post by Anirvan contemplates. I also worry that nitpicking over the differences between “banned” and “challenged” books — though I think it’s real and important — obscures the real issues which to me are the continued corporatization of everything, and the shift from content owning to content renting as a librarianship model.

As an example, I have been working with tiny libraries using Overdrive for years now and I’m sorry their product is no good by any standard other than “well it’s the best we can do for now” and this hits especially hard out here in digital divide land with libraries with five-figure budgets. I’m aware that there always has to be a balance and I go to the supermarket [or the farm stand] for my food rather than grow it myself so I really do understand why labor-saving devices and services are important and possibly worth money.

So, the threats to our intellectual freedom and our freedom to read are not just people who want to harass the librarian into handing over a computer or removing a book from the shelf. They’re also people who get us to accept licenses that bind us unfairly and give away our rights, or the people who let us show movies, but not use their names in public advertising. People who make us afraid to photocopy a book chapter. People who act like we’re possibly thieves when we watch a video at home with a few people. People who flash warnings on our computer that we don’t understand that make us and our patrons feel that we’re unsafe. People who make us buy digital content twice in two different file formats. People who want us to buy an entire 10 CD set again because one of them got scratched. People who blur the line between necessary security upgrades and enhancements we don’t need. People who make us feel that filters are actually “protecting” us from anything. People who have a vested interest in us not understanding our own technology.

So I think I understand the steps for keeping books on the shelves at my local library — have a policy, make sure everyone understands it, be civil and respectful to everyone because you’re everyone’s librarian — and even how to deal with a search warrant. What I’m not sure of is who I talk to when I’m concerned about content ownership models and legislation unfavorable to libraries and ultimately to citizens. I know a few good places to start — the EFF, the ACLU, the CDT, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse — but I can always use more. Happy Last Week Was Banned Books Week Week.

I worked at the library today

The local library is hiring for a three hour per week job because they got some money and decided to expand the library hours. This is great news. Unfortunately, they need to hire a person to help out during some of those hours and it’s hard to find someone who wants to make a commitment for a job that pays less than $25 a week. The library — which I have been working for helping them with their website and their OPAC — asked if I would train to be an on-call librarian there and that’s what I’ve been doing.

The funny joke about all my weird techie/bloggy/travelling stuff is that I started down this path because I wanted to live in the country and I didn’t want to be a teacher, work in the post office or be a police officer. I mean I like books, love to read and love to help people, but first and foremost I wanted to be a small-town librarian. This is the first “job” I’ve had where I actually did that. All my other jobs have been at larger libraries, school libraries or the weird circuit rider library job that I mostly do now. So I got to train on things I’ve never really learned before like how to use the circulation system and the barcode reader, how to operate the lift, how to transfer a call, how to keep teenagers happy but civil, how to call people and leave a message that their books on hold are are in without saying what the book is, you know the drill.

And, it should come as no surprise that this work was hard, and interesting, and engrossing and kept me so busy I didn’t check my email for three hours which is unusual for me during a work day. Michael Stephens and Michael Casey discussed the need for many of us with specialized jobs to switch off with other people, walk a mile in their shoes, or work a shift at their desk, to get an idea of what their real challenges were. Its good advice.

One of the librarians and I had a good laugh over thinking about the idea of IM reference for the YA librarian who has to monitor the teen computer area and is rarely near her own desk. There may be ways of making it work, sure, but in the abstract it was a totally ridiculous idea given how she works. It’s good for techie people like me to know that before we start offering our oh-so-helpful advice. Anyhow, I had a good but tiring day. Apropos of Banned Books Week I also like their title “Going to the Field” which reminds me of this part of one of my favorite poems by Wendell Berry.

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

banned books week looks at union issues

So, it’s banned books week. I have a few links I’ve been sitting on for a while trying to find a way to look at them together but I think this week has given me the nudge. Banning books is bad. Challenging books is an exercise in free speech and a totally appropriate way of giving community feedback on library selection policies. Lumping challenged and banned books together confuses two different issues, to my mind. For some reason thinking about free speech and libraries makes me think about union issues. There have been a few in the news lately and not so lately and I apologize for not getting to them sooner.

You can read more about this sort of thing over at Union Librarian.

Banned Books Week is This Week

And while I bitch and complain about the name “Banned Books Weekevery year [and the BBW acronym just continues to amuse] and think that “Free People Read Freely ®” is some sort of Orwellian catchphrase, there are some people doing some nifty things for BBW on the web. I’m not sure what happened to the logo thing that ALA was doing last year, I sort of liked it. The Office of Intellectual Freedom blog entry has some of the best information about how ALA is moving in to social spaces to discuss and promote BBW.

Feel free to include other projects in the comments here, this is just a few links I enjoyed and thought merited further attention.

sticky issues surround banned books

According to ALA, the three top reasons for book challenges are: the book is “sexually explicit,” the book contains “offensive language,” or the books is “unsuited to age group.” Please note that one of the most challenged books for 2003 “Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture” by Michael A. Bellesiles, was challenged for inaccuracy. A cursory amount of research will show that according to many the book has been discredited. The original publisher, when faced with the evidence against the author, ceased publication of the book. A smaller press is now re-issuing it, but in a revised edition, with a 50 page addendum. The author resigned from his university job.

Where does this leave librarians? I know this is a sticky issue. I’m just wondering if it’s possible that there are appropriate reasons to challenge a book? Not a storybook about raging-hormone teens or the antebellum South, but a true book about history. A book that many, including its publisher, believe to have errors of fact and conclusions based on poor or inaccurate research. Do you keep it for historical balance? Do you include a note saying “this book has been found to be untrue in parts?” Do you include a book about the errant book, setting the record straight? This seems to be the week to talk about this. On the one hand, we as a profession defend people’s rights to the privacy of what they read, and say “Just because someone is reading about bombs, it doesn’t make them a bomber.” on the other hand, we say that “Reading changes lives.” and view every challenged book — challenged for whatever reason — as an injury to the profession. As usual, I have more questions than answers on this one. Oddly, the ACLUs list of the “most banned books” doesn’t include Arming America while the ALA list, and their press release clearly does.