Every year, the American Library Association (ALA) releases a list of the top ten most challenged books of the previous year. In 2016, the Office for Intellectual Freedom recorded 323 challenges. A vast majority of the documented challenges are requests to remove materials from schools or libraries.
The reason for the requests vary, including sexual content, offensive language, mature themes, offensive political viewpoints, drug use and LGBT characters. "Looking for Alaska," by internationally best-selling author John Greene, has been on the top 10 list four out of the last five years for language perceived as offensive and sexual content.
According to the ALA's website, "A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others." A successful challenge results in a banned book: the removal of the materials from the school, library, bookstore or other organization.
Delta County Libraries is just one of hundreds of public library districts striving to bring attention to challenged or banned books during Banned Books Week. "Libraries must be aware of censorship and promote the value of including banned or challenged books in their collections," states Lea Hart, District Director of Delta County Libraries.
"During the week of September 24-30, all of our libraries will feature displays of books that have been challenged or banned elsewhere, but are available for our patrons to check out. It is important that our patrons have the option to choose to read them or not," Hart explains.
Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. It is a good time to remind people that open access to information is not a guarantee. Library patrons might be surprised at the numbers and titles of books that appear on the various lists of challenged books.
Children's books are frequent targets of censorship, often challenged by adults with the intention of protecting children from ideas or information perceived as difficult or unethical. There are currently 130 frequently challenged children's books listed on the ALA's website, including Shel Silverstein's "A Light in the Attic" and Roald Dahl's "James and the Giant Peach."
The young adult list is even longer, including over 250 banned or challenged books like "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck and "1984" by George Orwell. Jack London's "The Call of the Wild" and Ernest Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" are both on the 2016 list of challenged classics that includes 97 books.
If you are a patron who would like to show your support of these authors and books during Banned Books Week, you can participate by visiting your local library to checkout a banned book! To learn more about library events, visit www.deltalibraries.org.