I'm very pleased to be joining in on Sheila's Banned Book Week event at Book Journey. As a former library employee, I certainly have my own opinions about banned books and we always highlighted some of the so-called 'banned' books during my time there. I used to love doing a big display of some of the books and then watching them be picked up and checked out during that week. Doing my little part to see that those books or ones like them circulated.
So, you may be asking - what are banned or challenged books? They are books or materials that someone wishes to remove from the library shelves or restrict in some manner. Here's a link to the American Library Association's website. And here's a link to several lists of frequently challenged books. In my years of working at a library, I talked about books with patrons all the time. Sometimes, people would have a question about a certain book - was it appropriate for children or was it shelved in the most appropriate location? Occasionally, someone would ask how they could get the library to remove a book from the shelf permanently. I don't think I ever thought that anyone did this with bad intentions. More often than not, it was about their children and about protecting them from what they perceived as 'bad things'.
One of my first questions was always, 'have you read the book yourself?'. Sometimes the answer was yes, often it was no. Sometimes I would have personal knowledge of the book or material mentioned, having read it myself. Sometimes not. I was not the manager of my branch and so I would pass along information about how they could pursue their challenge if they wanted to. However, there were times when I could talk them through their uncertainty and provide information enough to satisfy them. I always suggested that they read any book that had been assigned to their child or indeed that their child wanted to read, if they had concerns. I would explain that in my experience, tough topics learned about together with your child could provide much food for discussion. I would relate my own experience as a parent and try to find common ground. I would also suggest that if their child had been assigned a book at school and they, as the parent, genuinely felt uncomfortable with it, talk to the teacher and ask for a substitute book. It would always be given.
Occasionally, a patron would be angry and belligerent regarding some library material. Usually, these individuals were not interested in discussion - they just wanted their way. Happily, we didn't have too many of those instances. The assistant manager of my branch was on a committee that considered challenges that had been bumped up the line to the library director's office and they met monthly, read the books or materials challenged, and then made recommendations to the director for her decision-making process.
Did I ever see a book banned while I was there? I honestly can't remember one. I did see a few items removed from the children's section and moved to the adult shelves. One in particular, and I can't remember the name but it was about women's bodies, I felt was a good decision. It was still available, but not so easily picked up by a child.
So, take a look at the books most frequently challenged in 1990-1999. And the books most frequently challenged in 2000-2009. From these lists, I'd like to recommend 10 books for your enjoyment and edification. You are probably at least familiar with several of these. In my opinion, they are all worthwhile. And Happy Banned Books Week!!
by Shel Silverstein
by Roald Dahl
by Caroline B. Cooney
by Katherine Paterson
by Laurie Halse Anderson
by David Guterson
by John Grisham
by Ken Follett
by John Steinbeck
(Austin's Mayor's Book Club Read for 2015)