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Banned Books

Check out a banned book at the library!

September 18 - 24, 2022

View the banned and challenged books display and pick a book from our featured titles selection in the LLC lobby.

What is Banned Books Week?

Banned Books Week is an annual event, typically held in late September, celebrating the freedom to read which highlights the value of free and open access to information.

Librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types share their support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.

Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship.

  • A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group.
  • A banning is the removal of those materials.

Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. As such, they are a threat to freedom of speech and choice.

word cloud - reasons books are challenged

Censorship by The Numbers

American Library Association 2022 censorship by the numbers infographic

2021 Top Challenged Books

This soundless video provides a brief (3 minute) overview of the past year's challenge statistics and also the top 10 challenged books of 2021.


A much more in-depth (25 minute) review of the reasons for the challenges to the 10 ten challenged books of 2021.

There is a playlist on Youtube called Stand for the Banned and Read Out Videos if you would like to view more banned book video content.

Notable First Amendment court cases

Select Significant Cases related to Banned Books (more at links above)

Evans v. Selma Union High School District, 193 Cal. 54 (1924)

"The mere act of purchasing a book to be added to the school library does not carry with it any implication of the adoption of the theory or dogma contained therein, or any approval of the book itself, except as a work of literature fit to be included in a reference library."

Right to Read Defense Committee v. School Committee of the City of Chelsea, 454 F. Supp. 703 (D. Mass. 1978)

In overturning a ban, the judge wrote, "The most effective antidote to the poison of mindless orthodoxy is ready access to a broad sweep of ideas and philosophies. There is no danger from such exposure. The danger is mind control."

Board of Education, Island Trees Union Free School District No. 26 v. Pico, 457 U.S. 853 (1982) (The "Pico" decision)

Local school boards may not remove books from school library shelves simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books.

Case v. Unified School District No. 233, 908 F. Supp. 864 (D. Kan. 1995)

Despite the fact that the school board testified that they had removed the book because of "educational unsuitability," it became clear that the book was removed because they disapproved of the book's ideology. In addition, it was found that the school board had violated their own materials selection and reconsideration policies, which weighed heavily in the judge's decision.

Sund v. City of Wichita Falls, Texas, 121 F. Supp. 2d 530 (N.D. Texas, 2000)

In an attempt to legislate restricted access to books by petition, a judge ruled that the City's resolution constituted impermissible content-based and viewpoint based discrimination; was not narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest; provided no standards or review process; and improperly delegated governmental authority over the selection and removal of the library's books to any subset of private citizens who wish to remove a book from the children's area of the Library.

Attribution

This guide is largely based on the University of Connecticut Libraries' Topic: Banned Books Week guide which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial 4.0 International License. . Adjustments were made to adapt the material to the SUNY Potsdam Libraries and to update data to 2022.

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