Banned books and the freedom to read

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Next week the Polk County Public Library, along with many other libraries across the country, will observe Banned Books Week. Some find this event confusing when they first hear about it. Why would a library celebrate a book being banned? Well, it’s quite the opposite actually.

This annual event during the last week of September highlights the value of free and open access to information. Since 1982, Banned Books Week has brought attention to the harms of censorship. While unfortunately books do continue to be banned, most challenged books now remain available due to the efforts of librarians, teachers, and community members who support the freedom to read.

So what books are most commonly challenged and why? Some are obvious, such as Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James (for being sexually explicit). Other books that have been frequently challenged might surprise you, such as The Holy Bible and many classics you probably read in school like To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, for various reasons such as offensive language, racism, and religious viewpoints.

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The Freedom to Read Statement issued by the American Library Association states that libraries should “make available the widest diversity of views and expressions, including those that are unorthodox, unpopular, or considered dangerous by the majority.” That does not mean the library endorses every idea that is in the materials in its collection. It means that we give customers like you the freedom to read what they want without judgement or censorship.

We will have Banned Books Week displays, brochures, and contests available at our Columbus and Saluda libraries from September 26-30. While browsing the library stacks, keep a lookout for caution tape bookmarks. These bookmarks signify commonly banned books and will have a list of reasons why they have been challenged inside.

Also, see if you can figure out which banned book we’ve shredded and put in a jar – if you guess correctly, you could win a prize! 

Jen Pace Dickenson is the Youth Services Librarian at Polk County Public Library. For information about the library’s resources, programs, and other services, visit or call 828-894-8721.