BANNED BOOKS WEEK 2017: Sept. 24 - Sept. 30

Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read.

Coordinated by the American Library Association (ALA), the week brings together a community of people and events to highlight the harms of censorship.

The Central Libraries is celebrating the freedom to read with some of our favorite faculty readers.  They’ve picked some of their favorite classics that have continued to be banned and challenged over the years. This video features Bill Hair, DeAnna Toten Beard, Tom Hanks and Lauren Weber.

BONUS video: Randy Umstead reads Atticus Finch's closing arguments speech from "To Kill a Mockingbird."

Keep reading for more information from ALA on this important topic.

Beth Farwell
Director, Central Libraries


Q: What is the difference between a challenge and a ban?

A: A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group.  A banning is the removal of those materials.  Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.  Due to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, students and other concerned citizens, most challenges are unsuccessful and most materials are retained in the school curriculum or library collection.

Q: Why are books challenged?

A: Books usually are challenged with the best intentions—to protect others, frequently children, from difficult ideas and information. See our Notable First Amendment Cases page.

Censorship can be subtle, almost imperceptible, as well as blatant and overt, but, nonetheless, harmful. As John Stuart Mill wrote in On Liberty:

If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. Were an opinion a personal possession of no value except to the owner; if to be obstructed in the enjoyment of it were simply a private injury, it would make some difference whether the injury was inflicted only on a few persons or on many. But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.

 

Rare printing from 1925 located in Baylor's Central Libraries Special Collections
Rare printing from 1925 located in Baylor's Central Libraries Special Collections

by Ramona McKeown, Collection Development Librarian

Banned Books Week (September 21-27, 2014) is observed by libraries of all types around the United States through book readings, conferences, and other events celebrating freedom from censorship. This week is an activity sponsored by the Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF), a section of the American Library Association (ALA). Throughout history books have been banned or challenged for many reasons. A book is “challenged” when a person or group of people attempt to prohibit or restrict access to a book. A book is “banned” when the challenge is successful in getting the book removed or blocked. Many lists of banned and challenged books are available on the ALA web site.

Ulysses, by James Joyce, is considered by many to be the most important novel of the 20th century, but it has been caught under the censor’s ban in many countries from its very beginning, when it was first published in 1918 by Shakespeare & Company in England. In 1922, according to Banned Books: Literature Suppressed on Sexual Grounds (link to Baylor Libraries' copy) , the "United States Department of the Post Office burned 500 copies of the novel when an attempt was made to import the book." The year before, a magazine called Little Review published a serialized version of the novel and members of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice seized an issue of the magazine and took the magazine editors to court on charges of obscenity. The court ruled against the Little Review and Ulysses. Bootlegged copies of the novel appeared but no further action took place until 1932, when the collector of Customs seized a copy of the book sent to Random House and declared it obscene under the Tariff Law of 1930. Random House, who had been publishing the work in the U.S. demanded a court hearing and asked that the book “be read in its entirety and that the passages declared to contain the dirtiest language be viewed in the context of the whole. “ The judge in the case, United States v. One Book Called Ulysses, rejected the claims of obscenity, stating, “In many places it seems to be disgusting, .. but I have not found anything that I consider to be dirt for dirt’s sake. Each word of the book contributes like a bit of mosaic to the detail of the picture Joyce is seeking to construct for his readers.” The government appealed the case to the circuit court of appeals, but the earlier decision was upheld. A significant result of the verdict was that it led judges and prosecutors to “examine a book in its entirety rather than according to isolated passages.”

The Central Libraries Special Collections houses a rare first edition, 7th printing by Shakespeare & Company, Paris, 1925. Follow this link Special Collections Webpage for more information on how to make an appointment to view rare materials. Circulating copies of Ulysses can be found in the Moody general collection with the call number PR 6019 .O9 U4.