Graphic courtesy of American Library Association
If you pay attention to the news, you know that we are living in a world where we must balance the right of freedom of expression with the responsibility for respecting alternative viewpoints. When someone is murdered during a protest, as Heather Heyer was in Charlottesville, when the President of the United States suggests NFL players who exercise their right to protest should be fired, we must consider when, if at all, it is appropriate to set ground rules for public speech.
In this charged climate surrounding free speech, this week the American Library Association (ALA) highlights the danger of censorship with Banned Books Week. The ALA uses this annual September event to protect open access to information and the freedom of expression. It also upholds readers’ freedom to choose.
In honor of BBW, here are a few terms that I think Word Nerds and readers should know about:
- Intellectual freedom: the American and democratic ideal that people should be able to hold, receive, and disseminate ideas
- Censorship: the suppression of ideas that certain people or groups find offensive
- Informed selection: an inclusive process, by which librarians, teachers, parents, and administrators gather information about materials and determine what is suitable for the readers they serve
- Self-censorship: a exclusive process by which individuals or institutions try to deny access to or suppress ideas and information that they find offensive
- A challenge is an attempt to remove materials from a library or school curriculum, based on the objections of a person or group.
- A ban is a removal of materials based on the objections of a person or group.
Usually, individuals or groups challenge books with good intentions: to protect children. However, according to the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights, parents should be the only ones with the right and responsibility to restrict access to reading material for their children, and only their own children. I agree with this stand.
In years past, I have featured a book review of a banned book during this week. My life has been a little crazy lately, so I don’t have a new review for you, but here are some links to some of those reviews, should you choose to exercise your right to “informed selection”.