Happy Banned Books Week everyone! Go dust off your copies of Harry Potter, To Kill a Mockingbird and the dictionary and celebrate your freedom to read!
It should come as no surprise to anyone that I’m against censorship. As an avid reader (often of banned books) and a future librarian how could I not be? Today I received my official ALA membership card. On it is printed the Code of Ethics which includes “We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources.” I fully intend to take that to heart. At some point in my career I’m sure I’ll have to fight for a book and I hope that I’ll be up to the task!
Intellectual freedom is one of our most important rights as free human beings. We have the right to think about things, to read, and to talk about our ideas. Even if we are wrong, we still have that right! If we want to live in a free society we need to accept that people are going to think differently from us and that other people have the right to listen to them.
John Stuart Mill wrote extensively on intellectual freedom. One of my favorite quotes from him is “However unwillingly a person who has a strong opinion may admit the possibility that his opinion may be false, he ought to be moved by the consideration that however true it may be, if it is not fully, frequently, and fearlessly discussed, it will be held as a dead dogma, not a living truth.” Humans are not infallible! No matter how right you think you are there is always the chance that you’re wrong, and by stifling debate you rob yourself and others of the chance of figuring out the truth. You can find more of Mill’s writing here. It’s pretty dense reading, but I think it’s definitely worth a look through. Of all the essays I’ve read in library school this is the one that has really stuck with me.
The American Library Association has a ton of great resources on banned books. If you start here you can find lists of frequently challenged books, information on banned books week, and information on the Office of Intellectual Freedom.