35 Years of Banned Books Week

From Books Challenged or Banned 2014-2015

This year marks the 35th year of Banned Books Week! The week was inspired by the success of the Banned Books Exhibit at the 1982 American Booksellers Association (ABA) convention, which prompted the ABA to work with the American Library Association and the National Association of College Stores for the first Banned Books Week in August of 1982. More information on the founding of Banned Book Week can be found in this previous blog post.

The American Library Association and other Banned Books Week sponsors have continued to provide a number of resources to educate people on books that continue to be banned and challenged in schools and libraries. The American Library Association provides press kits, free image downloads for social media, Q&As, banned and challenged book listings, events, and evening a form for people to use to report challenges.

Another resource produced by the American Library Association is its annual bibliography of challenged, restricted, and banned books, written by Robert P. Doyle. The bibliographies don’t only list out books from the year that were challenged or banned, but it also briefly summarizes the incident, bringing context to the entry. Not all of the entries listed in the bibliography are of books that were actually banned, but are important to document nonetheless. In the 2014-2015 edition, Doyle noted that, “Challenges are as important to document as actual bannings … Attempts to censor can lead to voluntary restriction of expression by those who seek to avoid controversy …”

Books Challenged or Banned 2011-2012

Here at the archives, we preserve the documentation of the ALA’s Banned Books Week history, activities, and resources. In our files, we have the letter from the ABA asking ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom to sponsor the first Banned Books Week, planning documents, resource guides, correspondence, posters, ephemera, publicity, and even letters of criticism against Banned Books Week. If you would like to find out more about our holdings, just send us an email!

There are several ways to celebrate 35 years of Banned Books Week, checkout Banned Books Week’s website or check with your local library. Or just read your favorite banned book (there’s plenty to choose from) and maybe even tweet a picture of yourself reading it to win a prize in the “Rebel Reader Twitter Tournament”!