KENT: The Kent Free Library is celebrating Banned Books Week, which runs from Sept. 30 through Saturday. Banned Books Week is an annual national event sponsored by the American Library Association with the dual purpose of promoting reading and generating attention to the issues surrounding censorship.
"We've been participating for over 5 years now, each year we try to create an interesting display of challenged and banned titles," said Melissa Ziminsky, Adult Services Manager at the library.
The ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom receives reports from communities around the country where certain books are being challenged or are in danger of being banned and compiles lists, including "Banned/Challenged Classics," "Frequently Challenged Books of the 21st Century," "100 Most Frequently Challenged Books by Decade" and "Most Frequently Challenged Authors pages of the 21st Century."
The ALA's official position is condemning censorship and advocating for free access to information.
According to the association's website, for every book that is reported as challenged by libraries, schools or community groups nationwide, an estimated four books that are challenged go unreported. The ALA's compiles its lists using two sources: newspapers and reports submitted by individuals.
Decisions on banned books are specific to the organization or entity banning them, such as a school district or local library. When a book is banned, it is then unavailable in the library that banned it or not taught in the school district that made the decision.
To generate awareness for the cause of freedom of information, the ALA hosts Banned Books Week each fall, typically during the last week of September. As part of the event, the association encourages book retailers, librarians, publishers, teachers and readers to get involved in the effort to advocate for freedom of information.
Also, for the second straight year, the ALA is co-sponsoring the Banned Books Virtual Read-Out, which invites readers to upload videos of themselves reading from their favorite banned or challenged books.
Books are banned for any number of reasons, as illustrated by the ALA's list of the most-banned books for 2011. The No. 1 book on the list, "ttyl" by author Lauren Myracle, has been banned in some communities for offensive language, religious viewpoints, sexually explicit content and being deemed inappropriate for its target age group.
Sexually explicit content is a common reason for books being banned, as are religious issues and racism. Not all of the books are recent, as the 1960 Harper Lee classic "To Kill a Mockingbird" was tenth on the list. The list is heavy on fiction, but there are non-fiction entries as well.
Also on the list is "The Hunger Games" trilogy by Suzanne Collins, the extremely popular series that spawned one of the highest-earning movies of 2012, grossing more than $686 million worldwide.
As part of its participation, the Kent Free Library has set up a display of some of the banned books in its main lobby area, with yellow caution tape around the display. Many of the books have a sign telling why they have been banned and the library is also holding a contest in its reference area, asking patrons to use clues on book covers to guess the titles of commonly banned books.
"It's important for every library to draw attention to the fact that every year, books are challenged or banned in this country," Ziminsky added.