Censorship. It’s More Than Just Books!

Once again it is “Banned Books Week”. censorship

I have been involved in Intellectual Freedom since the late ‘80s, serving as state IFC chair in the early ‘90s, part of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression in the late ‘90s, and supporter of the IFC, Freedom to Read, and every other campaign, organization, and group supporting Intellectual Freedom since then.

Why am I telling you this?  Because you are going to get really pissed off at what I have to say next.

Once again it is “Banned Books Week”.  And, once again, it digs at my sensibilities as a librarian and supporter of Intellectual Freedom.

People are discussing the recent article from Book Riot.  Please Stop “Celebrating” Banned Books Week.  The author, Kelly Jensen, basically said we shouldn’t celebrate banned books, but all of Intellectual Freedom.  I agree.

The concept started by Judith Krug in 1982 was brilliant and it worked!  Make people aware of what is happening so they can rally for freedom.  This was before the internet, before 24-hour news, before reality tv.  Not that reality tv has anything to do with this. It’s me just yearning for a better time. Anyway.  32 years later and it really hasn’t changed.  With the internet came more access to information in various ways.  Ebooks, personal computers, instant access worldwide.  We have had the age of political correctness and 24 hour speculative media.  CIPA , SOPA, textbook committees, universities dictating what is and isn’t appropriate in the classroom.  So many new challenges to our access to real information yet so many people not in ‘our’ world don’t even realize it!

We should stop concentrating on banned books and move to celebrating Intellectual Freedom.  The week would include challenges to books, but an Intellectual Freedom Week would address instances of

  • internet censorship (SOPA, CIPA),
  • censoring speech or speakers in the name of academia,
  • lack of access to internet to rural and poor populations
  • inequity of education among the classes

ALL the ways we are restricting Intellectual Freedom.

For example, during ‘Banned Books Week” Colorado students and teachers are protesting a proposed change to the curriculum that would seriously curb the way history is taught.  These are things we as librarians need to be talking about more.

internet ensorshipWhy can’t we get more people supporting the fight against SOPA?  They don’t see it as censorship.  They see it as business.  We spend all of our time focusing on books and we should be educating people on all the ways that censorship is growing in many sectors.  Yes, talk about books, but not to the detriment of everything else.

We keep saying “Libraries are more than just books” yet we cling to a book-centric discussion for Intellectual Freedom, which is what this is all about, really.  And there really aren’t many actual ‘banned books’ here.  Mostly challenged., so that in itself is a misnomer.

We hear the argument that “Intellectual Freedom Week” doesn’t sound as sexy or that the public doesn’t understand “Intellectual Freedom” as a statement.  Well then come up with something else or take this as an opportunity to teach them.  People need to understand ALL the ways that censorship is creeping into their lives.

Yes—I realize that librarians are all smart and YOU know that this is about more than just books.  However, does everyone else?

 Isn’t it time for a change?

Melissa Powell