Monday, October 01, 2012

Banned Books Week 2012

This week is the 30th Anniversary of Banned Books Week. Every year groups such as the American Library Association celebrate by promoting awareness of the issues surrounding censorship and the freedom to read. This year's activities are co-chaired by Bill Moyers and Judith Davidson Moyers. They have been married since 1954 and together they formed Public Affairs Television, Inc. in 1986 which produces programming for PBS.

Bill Moyers, a journalist who served as the White House Press Secretary for President Lyndon B. Johnson, is well known for such documentaries as Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth (a book and miniseries) and exploring such topics as Faith and Reason.

Interestingly, he has an M.Div. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and is an ordained Baptist Minister who is also known as a media critic.
I am intrigued by the Moyers' high level involvement because librarians stand by a Bill of Rights which expresses many values similar to the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. They are practically two sides of the same coin.
  • Both professions value freedom of information - one to print and the other to read. 
  • Both value some level of objectivity - to present all points of view and not to withhold information just because we find it offensive. 
  • Both professions believe that these values are protected by the American government and embraced by American society. Yet, the freedom is not guaranteed without enforcement and must occasionally be defended at some cost. 
Therefore, both professional associations take a careful look at cases of "challenged" and banned books from public libraries as well as school curriculum. And if they weigh in, it will not be on the side of censorship advocates or groups who do the challenging.

And because, when tested, these values can come into conflict with a Christian worldview, I am also interested in how the Moyers' play out their Christian perspectives in this spotlight.

Last year Professor Roberto Sirvent shared his views on "the idea of banning books in context of Christian moral responsibility." He basically said we should admit that the issue is complicated. (What did we expect from a professor who teaches Critical Thinking Skills?)

At the very least, I always find it fun (and surprising) to see what books have been challenged in the past year. Some I have never heard of (and may not want to) and some challenges I might agree with, depending on the circumstances. But some classics that continue to make the banned books list every year can also be found on various "must read lists" as well. (Evidence to support Dr. Sirvent's "it's complicated" view.)

Take a look and see how many of the 10 most frequently challenged books list you have read.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~ Robin Hartman is Director of Library Services at Hope International University. She is curious about how the organization and communication of information shapes society and is committed to equipping students to impact the world for Christ.

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