Banned books take center stage—or main entrance—at ALA Annual

Like baseball it’s a Great American Pastime–policymakers, school boards, and parents alike grappling with issues of censorship and how to reconcile them with our (arguably) more-important First Amendment rights. Just last month, one Tennessee county school board voted to ban The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which tells the story of an autistic teenager investigating the death of his neighbor’s dog, citing “bad language.” While this book does contain harsh language that might be too much for younger, more sensitive readers, it’s not just language that gets books banned in the U.S. Past challenges at schools have led to banning genuine literary works such as To Kill a Mockingbird, The Call of the Wild, and The Grapes of Wrath, because of their provocative depictions of real life. Banning books was an issue long before The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was first banned in 1885 and it’s clearly an issue for many libraries today.

ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom and SAGE have created an opportunity for librarians to show support of these and thousands of other banned books–such as the Diary of Anne Frank, Where the Wild Things Are, and the Harry Potter series–by reading an excerpt from favorite titles at the ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas later this month.

From 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 28 and Sunday, June 29, 2014, conference attendees are invited to the Banned Books Video Readout Booth, where they can read a short passage from a banned book and then speak from the heart about what the book means to them. Readings will be video recorded and featured on the Banned Books Week YouTube channel during Banned Books Week, September 21-27.

The booth will be located at the entrance to the exhibit hall (look out for a red carpet and cameras) and readers are strongly encouraged to bring their own copy of the banned book, although some commonly banned volumes will be available for reading. Those interested should RSVP now to avoid the lines.

For those who are willing to go the extra mile, consider donating their book after readings. All contributed books will be given to local libraries and learning institutions. To see a longer list of banned books, check out the most challenged titles of 2013, the list of Banned Books that Shaped America, or other frequently challenged books. For more information, contact Camille Gamboa, PR and public affairs manager at SAGE Publications, Inc. (camille.gamboa@sagepub.com) and Nanette Perez, program officer at ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (nperez@ala.org).

About Emily Sheketoff

Emily Sheketoff is the Executive Director of the American Library Association's Washington Office.

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