Banned Books Week

So Sept. 21-27 is Banned Books Week, which Reinhardt has celebrated in the past with a display of these allegedly banned books. Click the link to see Buzzfeed’s sample. The trouble is that none of these books has ever been banned! The ANC was banned. Methamphetamine is banned – it’s illegal to possess, and if you’re caught with it the authorities will confiscate and destroy it, and you’ll be in serious hot water. But just because some squares in the heartland objected to Tiger Eyes or Deenie in the local public library, and successfully got the books removed from the shelves, does not mean that they’ve been “banned.” I don’t support this practice, but the books are still legal to acquire and read, and there are plenty of ways to do so. And anyway, no one objects when the library deaccessions dated material or stuff that no one has checked out in years – is this too “banning”? Or, if we simply must titillate our moral outrage over “censorship,” then how about a valiant defense of The Anarchist’s Cookbook (Eric Harris’s manual for the Columbine massacre), or some (beautifully artistic) collection of child pornography? My point being that some things are banned – really banned – for a reason.

Perhaps mindful of this fact, the ALA gives itself an out, and is careful to mention that the books have been “banned (or challenged).” Public libraries are a great help to them here, since they’re open to every crank in town with time on his hands. As I say, I generally don’t support the removal of books for reasons of content. But public libraries, like public broadcasters, probably do need to adhere to certain standards of decency and propriety. I would have no problem with keeping some books behind the counter, so to speak – certainly far away from the children’s section! But to request this would count as a “challenge” as far as the ALA is concerned, somehow a bad thing.

(Academic libraries are another matter, of course, and I’m happy that Reinhardt’s Hill Freeman Library keeps the collection that it does.)