September 19, 2003

City Libraries Call Attention to Censorship During “Banned Books Week,” Sept. 20-27

Ironically, in a year that the latest Harry Potter book created a worldwide sensation when it was released, the entire Harry Potter series tops the list of the most banned and challenged books in the country.

To raise awareness regarding the censorship of books, exhibits and activities will be held across the country during Banned Books Week, Sept. 20-27.

Locally, the Valencia Park/Malcolm X Branch Library will have a special public reading event on Monday, Sept. 22 from 6 to 8 p.m. The celebration of books and learning will feature readings of books that have often been banned and/or challenged, such as John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men,” Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” and Rudolfo Anaya’s “Bless Me, Ultima.” Readers will include local educators, artists, writers and participants. The free program will be presented by the Library and the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego & Imperial Counties. The branch is located at 5148 Market St.

Also, special exhibits for Banned Books Week are currently on display at the Central Library, 820 E St.; and the Linda Vista Branch Library, 2160 Ulric St.

“Certainly, not every book will be right for every reader,” said City Library Director Anna Tatár. “However, the freedom to choose for ourselves is a hard-won right that we must not take for granted. Reading, speaking, thinking and expressing ourselves freely are core American values.”

The theme of this year’s Banned Books Week is “Open Your Mind to a Banned Book,” and the campaign is sponsored by the American Booksellers Associations, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, American Library Association, American Society of Journalists and Authors, Association of American Publishers and National Association of College Stores. The campaign is endorsed by the Center for the Book of the Library of Congress.

The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom has recorded more than 7,000 book challenges since 1990, including 515 in 2001. It is estimated that less than one-quarter of all challenges are reported and recorded. A “challenge” is defined as a formal, written complaint filed with a library or school about a book’s content or appropriateness. The majority of challenges (roughly 60 percent) are brought by parents, followed by library patrons and administrators. Each challenge represents an effort to remove books from school curricula or library shelves.

Other Most Challenged” titles include “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain, for its use of language, particularly references to race; “It’s Perfectly Normal,” a sex education book by Robie Harris, for being too explicit, especially for children; and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou, for the description of rape she suffered as a child.

For more information on Banned Books Week, visit the American Library Association on the Web at

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