ALIPL Statement on Book Censorship
“If this nation is to be wise as well as strong, if we are to achieve our destiny, then we need more new ideas for more wise men reading more good books in more public libraries. These libraries should be open to all—except the censor. We must know all the facts and hear all the alternatives and listen to all the criticisms. Let us welcome controversial books and controversial authors. For the Bill of Rights is the guardian of our security as well as our liberty.” ~John F. Kennedy [Response to questionnaire in Saturday Review, October 29 1960]
October 1-7 is Banned Books Week.
The 2023 Banned Books Week theme “Let Freedom Read” is a call to action about the urgent need to defend the right to read and to support the community of readers, library staff, educators, authors, publishers, and booksellers. [American Library Association]’s Office for Intellectual Freedom documented an unparalleled increase in attempts to remove books and other materials from libraries and schools in 2022, and preliminary data for 2023 indicates the trend will continue. Most of the challenges were to books written by or about a person of color or a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. [Emphasis ours -ALIPL] ~The Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association
In a most troubling, anti-intellectual and anti-democracy trend, the number of public-school book bans nationwide increased by 33% between the 2021-22 school year and the 2022-23 school year, according to a new PEN America study.
The study, Banned in the USA: The Mounting Pressure to Censor, found 3,362 book bans that will affect 1,557 different titles throughout the 2022–23 academic year and will influence the works of 1,480 authors, illustrators, and translators.
Here in Alabama, the Huntsville library director ordered a mass relocation of children’s LGBTQ books to the adult section. After this news was reported, the library administration released an official statement countering the story; however, Alabama Political Reporter states that the evidence says otherwise:
Out of the 70 children’s titles challenged, only three did not include LGBTQ subject headings—but one of those books, Read Me a Story, Stella appears to have been included due to the author’s last name being “Gay.” Another book on the list, an Avatar: The Last Airbender graphic novel, appears to be an outlier, but it is in the same series as Legend of Korra, whose titular character is a bisexual woman in a lesbian relationship.
If these two books were flagged mistakenly on an assumption of LGBTQ content, that makes 99 percent of the children’s books flagged for a perception of LGBTQ content—even without these two books it would be 96 percent.
A similar attack against LGBTQ and “sexually explicit” books in Foley is putting adult censor’s words in the mouths of children,
Such attacks, including legal moves by some states to criminalize public access to books, have Alabamians asking questions like, Who knew that my mother the librarian was potentially a common criminal? and warning Alabama’s kids face lots of problems. Libraries aren’t one. and The bigots are winning because of the cowards.
Now, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is holding hostage $6.6 million in state funding for the Alabama Public Library Service (APLS) unless it plays by Republican censorship rules.
Alabama Interfaith Power & Light sides with Read Freely Alabama and other First Amendment advocates fighting this growing number of U.S. book bans and strongly denounces the censorship actions of Gov. Ivey and groups including Clean Up Alabama and Moms for Liberty.
We must always remember that banning books ends with banning people, and burning books ends with burning people. Honor this week by reading a banned book.
“The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion. In the long run it will create a generation incapable of appreciating the difference between independence of thought and subservience.” ~Henry Steele Commager