Is censorship helpful? Banned books open your mind

(American Library Association)

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Some might argue that Labor Day is the only holiday in September; however, those of us who work in libraries know better.  Because of all the hoopla surrounding this important 2020 election, many probably don’t realize that this week is Banned Books Week.  Books are banned for a variety of reasons. Racism, violence, negativity, and point of view are a few of them, but is censorship helpful? Why ban books about controversial topics we, as a human society, are bound to experience at least once in our lifetime?  Literature helps us navigate our world by bringing light to uncomfortable and challenging topics.

This year’s American Library Association theme is “Censorship is a dead end. Find your freedom to read.”  We with all of the turmoil presently in our country, we encourage you to read a banned book to open your mind to new ideas even if you don’t agree with them.  Books on the banned list include:

Click here for the Top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books: 2010 – 2019.

In some cases, one of us thinks the temporary banning of books is appropriate.  Parents may restrict their underage children from reading explicit content.  In most cases, we all agree that we must educate ourselves through the power of books to prevent ignorance and one-dimensional views.

The 1982 court case of Island Trees School District v. Pico stemmed from a parent group complaint that the school board was too lenient with its library book policies.  The school removed the books by authors Langston Hughes, Kurt Vonnegut and more. Students challenged this decision all the way to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled, on First Amendment grounds, that school officials were not allowed to ban books in libraries because of subject material.  Banned Books Week began in the 1980s, but unfortunately books are still being banned today.

SoNo Branch of the Norwalk Public Library staff
  • Deneeka Baker, Library Assistant/College Student
  • Crystal Lopez, Library Assistant/College Student
  • Hailey Roy, Shelver/High School Student


Michael McGuire September 29, 2020 at 11:24 am

Kudos to the authors of this provocative and timely piece. I admire their courage in bringing this forward. To Kill a Mockingbird….really!?

Censorship, whether by banning books, selective news coverage, de-platforming a social media post (if said media outlet claims section 230 status), shouting down speakers, or engaging in “cancel culture” activities, etc. should not be condoned or tolerated.

Censorship’s counterpart, free speech, is the foundation of our democratic republic. Remove free speech or invite censorship and you remove the fundamental rights of this country’s citizens. This in turn opens the door to powerful self-interests that can control the narrative. What? Books today, believe in God tomorrow!

Democracy is sloppy, slow moving, and can be fraught with powerful emotions like we are seeing today. However, the only way to rein in excessive lurches to the ‘left’ or ‘right’ in our system is to ensure and protect free speech.

It is time for this debate to take place – in the clear light of day. Censorship is a weapon; free speech is not. It is a right that pairs exceptionally well with a hefty helping of the golden rule.

James Cahn September 29, 2020 at 4:26 pm

Great article. I remember reading many of these when I was in elementary school BECAUSE they were on the “banned list” and I was intrigued and wanted to understand why.

Except Capt. Underpants. I’m in full agreement with a ban on that series. Just in the interest of no other parent having to go through the “Captain Underpants” phase again. To include the movie.

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