In an era where the importance of diverse perspectives and voices is at the forefront of societal conversations, the American Library Association (ALA) has fittingly chosen “Let Freedom Read!” as the theme for Banned Books Week, running from October 1-7, 2023.
The stance of MI Right to Read, a grassroots coalition of librarians and concerned Michigan residents, emphasizes the fundamental duty of libraries: to guarantee and ensure access to all forms of knowledge and intellectual activity. This includes content that some may label unconventional, unpopular, or even unacceptable. Books, after all, are entirely subjective; while a specific book may not be the right fit for one person, it may still be the perfect fit for another.
History is strewn with instances of book banning. Such acts not only aim to dictate what others should or shouldn’t read, but they also inadvertently shrink our worldview. The books often targeted by such bans frequently offer instrumental insights, shedding light on experiences and perspectives that many of us may never personally encounter.
According to the ALA, there were 1,269 reported attempts to censor library books and resources in 2022, marking the highest number of such incidents since the ALA began tracking this data over two decades ago. This figure is startling, especially when compared to the 729 challenges reported in the previous year, 2021.
The primary targets of these bans are books written by and depicting traditionally marginalized individuals and groups, including LGBTQIA+ communities, BIPOC authors, and women.
The act of banning books is not merely about restricting certain reading materials; it is a statement that certain thoughts, ideas, or perspectives are not welcome. In other words, it erodes the foundational tenets of a free society, stifling education and depriving individuals of the ability to formulate their own thoughts and conclusions.
Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, in The One Un-American Act, proclaimed: "Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us."
Banned Books Week serves as an important reminder and celebration of the freedom of expression, no matter how unconventional or unpopular the views might be. It emphasizes the necessity of ensuring that these perspectives remain accessible to every individual who wishes to explore them.
Join us for this global celebration of literary freedom by stopping into the Wickson Library and checking out our Banned Books Display. By doing so, we unite with a singular mission: to “Let Freedom Read!”