“The Mod-Mod Read-In Paperback Book List was produced in 1970, under the auspices of the Young Adult Services Division, the precursor of the Young Adult Library Services Association. From the titles, it seems to be an ancestor of both Popular Paperbacks and Quick Picks. It was part of a project called â€œOperation Opportunity;â€ apparently the Jayceesâ€™ response to the Great Society.”
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.
- American Booksellers Association has a link to this functional site from the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, much better than last year. This blog post (from August) seems to summarize what they’ve been up to. Nothing on their Twitter. They also run the website BannedBooks.org which has been updated a little for this year.
- The American Library Association – has one of the six slides linked to their BBW page. The press kit page is more interesting. The full list of books that were challenged or banned last year is hidden away in a PDF. Mostly school challenges. A few interesting public library cases. ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom is posting a lot on their Twitter and their blog.
- American Society of Journalists and Authors has a button for sale in their store, no other mention that I could find including on their Twitter and on facebook.
- Association of American Publishers has a short bloggish post talking about what some publishers are up to this week, linked from the front page. Is anyone else freaked out that the URL includes a misspelling of the word “archives”? I remember that from last year.
- the National Association of College Stores has nothing, as usual.
- It is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress but no mention that I can see.
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
- The National Coalition Against Censorship has protested book ratings in a sensible and clear headed way.
- A Few Words About Public Libraries and MPAA Ratings (pdf)
- An interesting discussion on a unicycle forum about the public library and whether they should buy “cleaned up” versions of popular music.
- Online books about censorship, from the Online Books Page’s banned books page.
- I always find something interesting to read at Project Censored.
Join me in a rousing song celebrating free expression, won’t you?
If the numbers are there, I’d like to see them. Otherwise this speculation about the graying of the profession doesn’t really seem to be fact-based.
“ALA is still promoting the idea that we are approaching a librarian shortage and cannot possibly train enough people to continue on the grand tradition of librarianship. This information was suspect a couple years ago, and considering the state if libraries right nowâ€“academic, public and specialâ€“ itâ€™s a damn lie.” [via @librarianmer]
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?