October kicks off with Banned Books Week

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The Provo City Library at Academy Square has participated in Banned Books Week for years, according to director Carla Gordon. Banned Books Week has been celebrated annually for over 40 years. (Ivette Galvez Laparra)

Banned Books Week has been celebrated since 1982 by libraries, educators, publishers and booksellers, according to Princeton Library. Last year, BYU created a display in its library to honor the week. This year, Banned Books Week runs from Oct. 1-7 in an effort to “oppose censorship.”

The American Library Association said this week celebrates the nation’s liberty to read and spotlights “current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools.”

“This is a dangerous time for readers and the public servants who provide access to reading materials. Readers, particularly students, are losing access to critical information, and librarians and teachers are under attack for doing their jobs,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, the director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.

The ALA documented 1269 requests to censor books and resources in libraries in 2022, according to their Office for Intellectual Freedom. This was the highest number of attempts to ban books in the previous 20 years.

The targeted books for censorship mostly included topics concerning Black and indigenous peoples of color and the LGBTQ+ community, according to the ALA.

There is also a list of “Banned and Challenged Classics” worldwide, found on ALA’s website, including “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “The Great Gatsby,” “The Catcher in the Rye” and many others.

Carla Gordon, director of the Provo City Library, has worked at the same library for almost 25 years. She said her library has been doing Banned Books Week for as long as she can remember.

“The Bible is one of the most banned books,” she said.

She said she has seen many religious books banned or challenged, including the Book of Mormon. Another book she mentioned that has been banned in other locations is “Harry Potter.”

Teen books often bring many different issues as well, she said.

Gordon said that though she likes the idea of Banned Books Week, she does not like the recent focus it has taken.

“You get to come into a library and you get to choose what’s right for you,” she said her preferred emphasis on Banned Books Week is to include everyone rather than view what books others have had a problem with.

She said that there are “so many opinions out there” about what is right and wrong to read.

“We have a conservative community but we have people with lots of different standards,” she said.

For her, the purpose of Banned Books Week is to open the discussion of asking people what they have access to that others cannot or could not access, Gordon said.

She said it is about “celebrating that moment that I get to choose what I read and you get to choose what you read.”

Many libraries take different approaches to decide what to do with books that have been requested to be removed, Gordon explained. She said libraries often move a book to a different section, for example: from the teen books to the adult section, rather than just ban them.

“The library is for everybody,” she said.

Paige Bishop, a BYU student from Lindon, has been working at the BYU Library’s circulation desk since the beginning of the fall semester. She said students have come in to talk about books they think should not be at the library.

“You don’t want to keep anyone from anything, like it’s kind of up to them and it should be up to them,” she said about banned books. “There are some things out there that … I wish we had a rated-R thing for them.”

She was grateful for the focus people make on improvements, she said, though she is also grateful that people have the opportunity to speak about their concerns.

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