Sept. 22-28 is Banned Books Week


What would you do if you went to the library to check out a book, only to find it wasn’t there? Not because it was already checked out, but because someone else disapproved of its content and had it removed from library shelves? Banned Books Week, Sept. 22 – 28, stresses the importance of preventing censorship and ensuring everyone’s freedom to read any book, no matter how unorthodox or unpopular.

Despite the perception that censorship no longer occurs in the United States, attempts to ban books frequently take place in our schools and libraries.   According to the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), there were 464 reported attempts to remove or restrict materials from schools and libraries in 2012 and more than 17,700 attempts since 1990, when the ALA began to record book challenges.

Just recently Alabama State Senator Bill Holtzclaw (R-Madison) called for a ban on the novel “The Bluest Eye,” stating that the book should be removed from libraries and the 11th Grade Common Core reading list because he believes the book is “highly objectionable” and has “no value or purpose.” “The Bluest Eye” is Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison’s first novel and is often included in honors and Advanced Placement English classes.  Holtzclaw’s demand is just one example of the kinds of book challenges that, if successful, deny students and their parents the right and the freedom to choose books and literature that contain diverse ideas drawn from across the social and political spectrum.

“The ability to read, speak, think and express ourselves freely is a fundamental freedom that sustains and upholds  our democratic society,” said ALA President Barbara Stripling. “Banned Books Week serves as an opportunity to remind all of us that the freedom to choose books for ourselves and our family is a right, not a privilege.”

Book challenges to school library materials are not the only threat to students’ freedom of inquiry.  Online resources, including legitimate educational websites and academically useful social networking tools, are being blocked and filtered in school libraries. In an effort to raise awareness, the American Association of School Libraries (AASL), a division of the ALA, has designated one day during Banned Books Week as Banned Websites Awareness Day – Wednesday,  Sept. 25 – and is asking school librarians and other educators to promote an awareness of how excessive filtering affects student achievement.

Banned Books Week 2013 has been celebrating the freedom to read for more than 30 years.  Libraries and bookstores will observe Banned Books Week by hosting special events and exhibits on the power of literature and the harms of censorship.  ALA, along with Banned Books Week co-sponsors, will host one of those events, a Virtual Read Out on YouTube [] where participants will read from their favorite banned books. Past participants have included highly acclaimed and/or frequently challenged authors such as Judy Blume, Chris Crutcher, Whoopi Goldberg, Lauren Myracle and many others.

For the first time this year, Twitter parties will help promote the message of Banned Books Week.  A party will be held from 10 a.m. to noon Eastern time on Monday, Sept. 23, with a second party scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 25, from noon to 2 p.m. Eastern time.  Supporters are urged to tweet using the hashtag #bannedbooksweek. More information about the Twitter parties is available on the Banned Books Week website,

Also, many bookstores, schools and libraries celebrating Banned Books Week will showcase selections from the ALA OIF’s Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2012. The list is released each spring and provides a snapshot of book removal attempts in the U.S. The Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2012 reflects a range of themes and consists of the following titles:

1) Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey.
Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group

2) “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” by Sherman Alexie.
Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group

3) “Thirteen Reasons Why,” by Jay Asher.
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group

4) “Fifty Shades of Grey,” by E. L. James.
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit

5) “And Tango Makes Three,” by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.
Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age group

6) “The Kite Runner,” by Khaled Hosseini.
Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit

7) “Looking for Alaska,” by John Green.
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group

8) Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
Reasons: Unsuited for age group, violence

9) “The Glass Castle,” by Jeanette Walls
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit

10) “Beloved,” by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence

Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association; American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression; the American Library Association; American Society of Journalists and Authors; Association of American Publishers; and the National Association of College Stores.  It is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. In 2011, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the Freedom to Read Foundation, National Coalition Against Censorship, National Council of Teachers of English, and PEN American Center also signed on as sponsors.

ALA’s work opposing censorship takes place not just during Banned Books Week, but throughout the year. OIF tracks hundreds of challenges to books and other materials in libraries and classrooms across the country.  OIF provides support to librarians, teachers and community members looking to keep books on the shelves.  Those wishing to support Banned Books Week and libraries can do so by texting ALABBW to 41518 to provide a $10 tax-deductible donation.

For more information on Banned Books Week, book challenges and censorship, please visit the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom’s Banned Books Web site at, or

Promote Library Card Sign-up Month with free tools

Celebrate Library Card Sign-up Month with new downloadable tools and public service announcements (PSAs).

Sample media tools are available to remind the public of all the resources available for free with a library card. Tools include a sample press release, op-ed, proclamation, PSA scripts and radio quality PSAs.

To download free promotional materials, visit

Also in celebration of Library Card Sign-up Month, a new slideshow featuring “60 Ways to Use Your Library Card” is now available on Librarians are encouraged to embed the slideshow, which scrolls through examples like “Learn how to write a business plan” and “Get help with homework,” on their own websites or blogs.

NBA All- Star Luol Deng of the Chicago Bulls is the Honorary Chair of Library Card Sign-up Month. During this month, libraries will encourage the public to obtain a free library card that will save them money. According to a PEW Internet and American Life study, 58 percent of Americans age 16 and older have a library card and even more—69 percent—say the library is important to them and their families.

A native of the Sudan, Deng has won the NBA’s sportsmanship award for the player who best exemplifies ethical behavior, fair play and integrity on the court.  In 2008, Deng was honored with the UN Refugee Agency’s Humanitarian of the Year Award for his efforts to bring education and sports to millions of displaced children.

Librarians looking to promote Library Card Sign-up Month locally can download a public service announcement (PSA) featuring Deng at Free customization is available.

Library Card Sign-up Month is a time when libraries across the country remind parents that a library card is the most important school supply of all. Thousands of public and school libraries join together each fall in a national effort to ensure every child signs up for a library card.

The Campaign for America’s is Libraries is the ALA’s public awareness campaign that promotes the value of libraries and librarians.  Thousands of libraries of all types – across the country and around the globe – use the Campaign’s @ your library® brand. The Campaign is made possible in part by ALA’s Library Champions.

Bestselling author Cory Doctorow supports library ebook lending

WASHINGTON, D.C.— In a video released by the American Library Association’s (ALA) Campaign for America’s Libraries, bestselling author Cory Doctorow lends his public support for fair and equitable ebook lending practices for libraries.

“There’s only one powerful voting bloc out there whose only interest is promoting books, authorship and knowledge…and that’s libraries,” Doctorow said in the video. “As an author, I want libraries to have my books, and I want them to be able to get them on equitable terms. Libraries should be able to buy books and they should be able to buy them on fair terms.”

Doctorow, a long-time champion for libraries and reader privacy, is a member of “Authors for Library Ebooks,” a new ALA initiative that asks authors to stand with libraries in their quest for equitable access to e-books. Developed by the ALA’s Digital Content & Libraries Working Group (DCWG), the Authors for Library E-books campaign encourages authors to sign on to a statement of shared values, to discuss the issue with their publishers, and raise awareness of their concerns through their websites, social media and other communications channels.

“Bestselling authors Ursula K. Le Guin and Jodi Picoult also have joined the “Authors for Library Ebooks” campaign,” said Robert Wolven, DCWG co-chair. “The campaign represents an extension of the ALA’s advocacy strategy to ensure all people have access to the world’s knowledge and literature through our nation’s libraries—regardless of format. ALA leaders have met with major publishers, distributors, authors and representative associations to seek sustainable solutions for library e-book lending.”

ALA President Barbara Stripling unveils ‘Declaration for the Right to Libraries’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, American Library Association (ALA) President Barbara Stripling unveiled the “Declaration for the Right to Libraries” during a signing ceremony at Nashville Public Library.  The Declaration is the cornerstone document of Stripling’s presidential initiative, Libraries Change Lives, which is designed to build the public will  and sustained support for America’s right to libraries of all types – academic, special, school and public. Stripling’s initiative will focus on transformative library practices in literacy, innovation and community engagement.

Stripling was joined by Kent Oliver, director, Nashville Public Library; Nashville library leaders and community members. All were among the first to sign the Declaration, which will serve as a strong public statement about the value of libraries as institutions that empower individuals, strengthen families, build communities and protect our right to know. Signings are being organized at libraries and other locations throughout the nation. The petitions will be presented to Congress by library supporters during National Library Legislative Day activities from May 5 – 6, 2014. Online signing of the Declaration will be made available later this summer.

“Libraries provide services that inspire and empower their users to change their lives through education,” said Stripling. “The Declaration will serve as an advocacy tool to help communities take action and illustrate the value of their libraries and library staff. Our hope is that library supporters will take advantage of this tool and present collected signatures to local leaders and legislators throughout the year.”

As many families continue to struggle to make ends meet, public libraries are positioned to play a critical role. According to the ALA’s “Public Library Funding and Technology Access Study,” job seekers use public libraries to access the Internet to seek and apply for employment.  Each day an estimated 300,000 people receive job-seeking help at public libraries.  The report also shows that more than 65 percent of libraries report that they are the only source of free public access to computers and the Internet in their communities.

Our school libraries play a key role in changing lives of our nation’s youth. Numerous studies show there is a clear link between the quality of school library programs and academic achievement. More than 60 studies in 19 states have conclusively demonstrated that students in schools with school library programs staffed by qualified school librarians learn more, have higher academic achievement levels, and score higher on standardized tests than their peers in schools without such library programs.

University libraries are at the helm of technology advancements in library service and fulfill an important role in nurturing academic scholarship.  Academic librarians are instructional and research partners who prepare students with essential academic and employment skills.

In the next year, libraries of all types will hold signing ceremonies, during which community members can visibly declare their right to have vibrant school, public, academic and special libraries in their community.

For more information regarding the “Declaration for the Right to Libraries,” or for information on how to participate, please visit

Booklist’s Donna Seaman interviews Richard Ford, winner of the 2013 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence im Fiction

The 2013 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction Awards were announced on June 30 at the ALA Annual Conference.

The fiction award went to Richard Ford for his novel Canada, published by Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. This is the second year the Carnegie Medals (fiction and nonfiction), funded by the Carnegie Corporation, have been awarded by Booklist and ALA’s Reference and User Services Association (RUSA).

Ford’s “Canada,” published by Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, begins “First, I’ll tell you about the robbery our parents committed.” The riveting novel is an atmospheric and haunting tale of family, folly, exile and endurance told in the precise and searching voice of Dell Parsons, a young man forced to navigate a harsh world.

During Annual Conference, Richard Ford was interviewed by Booklist’s Donna Seaman on the exhibit floor.

Timothy Egan Speaks with Booklist’s Brad Hooper about “Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher”

Booklist‘s Brad Hooper speaks with Timothy Egan upon his winning the 2013 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in  Nonfiction Award.

Egan  shares his enthusiasim for photographer Edward Curtis, the subject of his book, Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis.

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher is a gripping and heroic story of Curtis’ three-decade project that ultimately resulted in The North American Indian, a 20-volume collection of words and pictures documenting the Native American Peoples of the American West.

This is the second year the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction have been awarded by Booklist and ALA’s Reference and User Services Association (RUSA). The awards are funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.