Banned Books Week: September 18–24

Celebrate Banned Books Week 2022

Books unite us. They reach across boundaries and build connections between readers. Censorship, on the other hand, divides us and creates barriers. One of our most important goals here at the Library is to provide free and equitable access to information and resources. Among the many implications of that word–access–is the notion of freedom: you are free to read, watch, play, or listen to whatever interests you.

For nearly 40 years, the American Library Association and other organizations who are committed to preserving the tenet of intellectual freedom have promoted Banned Books Week in late September. Libraries around the world celebrate this annual event by hosting author visits and book talks, special programs and book displays, and other initiatives to promote awareness of the many literary works that are routinely challenged and censored.

"Banned Books Week takes on a heightened sense of urgency this year," said Grier Carson, Director of the Library. "Amidst the sociopolitical dynamic dominating our public discourse, libraries have seen a dramatic increase both in the number of challenges to their collections (no less than a 585% increase from 2020 to 2021) and in the vehemence with which these challenges are registered. Such a disconcerting trend should prompt us to remember why we value libraries in the first place."

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 729 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services in 2021. 39% of challenges were initiated by parents, and 24% by patrons, with 44% taking place at school libraries, 37% at public libraries, and 18% at schools.

"Like many of our most cherished democratic institutions, libraries are about freedom–the freedom to explore, discover, and challenge yourself with new ideas," Grier said. "Regardless of one's political beliefs, public libraries are here to facilitate the freedom to think for yourself–and that even means the freedom to ignore content you may find offensive or inappropriate and instead borrow other materials. MCPL's mission is to provide equitable and impartial access to information and opportunities to engage. We select materials that reflect a wide range of views, expressions, opinions, and interests so that everyone in Monroe County can see themselves in our collections. Perhaps just as important, we also select materials that provide a window into other people's lives."

Of the 1,597 individual books that were targeted, here are the most challenged, along with the reasons cited for censoring the books:

  • Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe: Banned, challenged, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content and because it was considered to have sexually explicit images
  • Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison: Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and because it was considered to be sexually explicit
  • All Boys Aren't Blue by George M. Johnson: Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content, profanity, and because it was considered to be sexually explicit
  • Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez: Banned, challenged, and restricted for depictions of abuse and because it was considered to be sexually explicit
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: Banned and challenged for profanity, violence, and it was thought to promote an anti-police message and indoctrination of a social agenda
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie: Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and use of a derogatory term
  • Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews: Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and degrading to women
  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison: Banned and challenged because it depicts child sexual abuse and was considered sexually explicit
  • This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson: Banned, challenged, and restricted for providing sexual education and LGBTQIA+ content
  • Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin: Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and because it was considered to be sexually explicit

"That a public institution can support the needs of so many different groups of citizens while emphasizing each individual's freedom to read (or not to read) is nothing short of remarkable," Grier said. "We encourage all MCPL patrons to reflect on that freedom and on how Banned Books Week reminds us that the path forward is through freedom of access, not book banning and censorship."

This week and beyond, we encourage you to check out something that challenges your own thinking on a particular subject, where it’s one of our staff recommendations for kids, staff recommendations for teens, or staff recommendations for adults. Whether it changes your mind or simply expands it, you’ll find that the freedom to access information and resources is akin to the freedom to think for yourself.

Kids: Banned Books

Teens: Banned Books

Adults: Banned Books

Think Library    Adults    Teens