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Banned Books Week and the First Amendment: What’s It to You?


Across the country, libraries, including OCLS, celebrate Banned Books Week September 24-30, 2017. This annual event highlights the freedom to read and the value of free and open access to information.  

Libraries emphasize Banned Books Week to draw attention to library patrons’ First Amendment rights and the challenges those rights face. The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States affirms that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

For libraries and library users this means individuals have the right to freely read and listen to others’ ideas or without interference from the government. Of the 323 book challenges reported to the American Library Association (ALA) in 2016, only two percent of challenges came from the government, the remainder were submitted by private citizens and interest groups.

When an item is challenged, libraries turn to established collection development policies to determine a course of action. At its conclusion, a challenge results in the item being removed from the circulating collection (banned), relocated to another area of the the library, or left where it was originally. The ALA’s Library Bill of Rights serves as a library guideline for defending patron rights. It encourages libraries to select the least restrictive option, believing in the individual’s right to choose. Even so, roughly 10% of recorded challenges result in materials being removed.

Please join us, as we join libraries across the country, in celebrating your right to select your own reading materials. Remember the rights afforded by the First Amendment, don’t take them for granted because they are being tested.  

Read On! for even more information on the First Amendment.