Celebrate Banned Books Week

Monday, September 28, 2020

Image contains an open book and words with the Banned Books Week theme

Did you know that this week, September 27 – October 3, 2020, is Banned Books Week? Around the county, readers, librarians, booksellers, publishers, and teachers  are celebrating our freedom to seek and read all types of books—even those that some consider unorthodox or unpopular. This year’s Banned Books Week theme is “Censorship is a dead end. Find your Freedom to read!” Here is some more information about this celebration and ways for you to consider participating. 

What is Banned Books Week? 

Banned Books Week began in the 1980s in response to a surge of challenges to books in schools, bookstores, and libraries. Typically held the last week of September, it is organized by the Office for Intellectual Freedom from the American Library Association (ALA) and highlights the value of free and open access to information. It does this by releasing top 10 lists of challenged books, as well as statistics on the reported bans and challenges to library, school, and university materials and services from the previous year. 

What Does it Mean to Ban or Challenge a Book? 

ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom considers a challenge “an attempt to remove or restrict materials or services based on content” and a ban as the “removal of materials or cancellation of services based on content.” 

In 2019, their office tracked 377 challenges to materials and services, and 566 books targeted. See this infographic handout for more information about the 2019 challenges. 

Why Does This Matter? 

If a challenge becomes a ban, then that book or service is removed from circulation. This can limit access to information and equitable representations of communities which can lead to creating barriers to learning and unconscious bias. By paying attention to which books are challenged and celebrating that they haven’t been banned, we can challenge ourselves and our ideas. Reading a challenged or banned book may not change our minds or positions on a matter, but they at least give us the chance to hear diverse points of view. 

How Can I Participate in Banned Books Week? 

The easiest way to participate in Banned Books Week is by reading a banned or challenged book. Not sure if a book has been banned or challenged? ALA’s website is a great place to start learning about Banned Books Week, to find a book, or locate an activity:  http://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/banned. Take a look at their lists of the frequently most challenged books by yeardecade, age group (children or young adult), or genre (classics or diverse content).  

Share what you read or see what other people are reading by following #BannedBooksWeek on social media.  Or take a look at the Banned Books Week Coalition which has an entire web page dedicated to ways you can celebrate virtually this week. 


Krista Sorenson, Digital Projects Librarian