Sunday Morning War of words: The fight over banning books
“Catch-22,” Kurt Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle,” “The Great Gatsby,” Toni Morrison’s “Beloved,” “Lord of the Flies,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” … classics, and every one of them banned in some places. Said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, “There was somebody who objected to the profanity, or the challenge to the status quo.”
The Chicago Public Library put them on display, in defiance of efforts nationwide to ban books.
“I should say, it doesn’t stop with just banning books. What we’re seeing across the country is they’re banning voices, modern voices, librarians, teachers,” said Patrick Stewart, CEO of the San Diego Public Library Foundation. “It’s gone beyond just the banning of a book, or a certain piece of literature or textbook.”
Stewart joined San Diego Public Library director Misty Jones on Midday Edition Monday to talk about their reaction to the report’s findings.
“It’s disheartening,” Jones said. “It is seeing just the increase in the number not only of challenges, but the extent and the links to what people are going for, these challenges going before school boards, the personal attacks on librarians and teachers for doing their job.”
Many of the books being targeted involve topics on race and sexuality.
When the Kentucky Legislature started mulling a bill that would tighten control over public libraries earlier this year, librarians across the state called their lawmakers pushing for its defeat.
In the past, legislators would at least have heard them out, says Jean Ruark, chair of the advocacy committee of the Kentucky Library Association. Not this time.”
It seemed as though our efforts fell on deaf ears. There was a big outcry about the passage of that and they did it anyway,” Ruark says.
At a time when public school libraries have increasingly become targets in the culture wars, some red states are going further, proposing legislation aimed at libraries serving the community as a whole. A few of the bills would open librarians up to legal liability over decisions they make.
While some of these bills have quietly died in committee, others have been signed into law, and librarians worry that the increasingly partisan climate is making them vulnerable to political pressure.
The American Library Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and more than two dozen other organizations on Tuesday formed a coalition to fight the far-right’s record-breaking censorship barrage—wherein nearly 1,600 books were targeted for removal from public shelves and schools across the United States in 2021.
The goal of Unite Against Book Bans—which also includes the Authors Guild and prominent publishers such as Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster—is “to empower individuals and communities to fight censorship and protect the freedom to read,” according to the ALA.
“This is a dangerous time for readers and the public servants who provide access to reading materials,” Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, said in a statement. “Readers, particularly students, are losing access to critical information, and librarians and teachers are under attack for doing their jobs.”