Two parents expressed objections to a book being used in an optional high school literature class and the story has taken on a life of its own. For two days, coverage has landed on the front page of the paper and several sets of parents voiced their concerns at the school board meeting.
The paper reported: “The 1999 novel is on the American Library Association’s list of the top 100 banned and challenged books for 2000-2009, according to the group’s website.”
When I first read that, it raised my eyebrows as I thought that the book must be bad if it on the top of the banned book list. But then I paused for a moment and wondered who decides what is on the banned book list and what criteria they use.
As it turns out, the American Library Association compiles the list of books that have been banned or challenged BY OTHERS and distributes it “in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular…[it] draws national attention to the harms of censorship.”
In other words, being on the list means that someone else, not the American Library Association, raised objections about it, and in fact, the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom is actually trying to minimize what is banned, rather than being used as support to challenge the availability of books.
There seems to be a big disconnect here, and by maintaining such a list the ALA may be impeding its efforts instead of helping them. I think they could benefit greatly by renaming their list (eg: Attempts at Censorship) and being more clear about their intent and position. It’s not as sexy as “Banned Books Week” but could be more powerful.
The media can make its argument in any way that suits them. It’s up to you to communicate your position as clearly as you can as an organization, and to dig a layer deeper than what lands on page one as a reader.
— beth triplet