Thursday, September 24, 2009

Banned books Weeks: Celebrate the Freedom to Read, September 26 – October 3, 2009

By Heather Kushnerick, Special Collections Librarian

On October 27, 1553 Michael Servetus, a scientist and theologian, was burned at the stake with the last known copy of his heretical book, the Christianismi Restitutio, chained to his leg. Three copies of this work survived the flames and can be found today at the Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek in Vienna, the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, and the library of the University of Edinburgh. While authors no longer face such extreme punishment when their work is deemed objectionable, they are sanctioned nonetheless when libraries, schools, and communities are pressured to remove their books from shelves and classrooms. For these authors, and in recognition of all censored authors before them, Banned Books Week is celebrated each year.

"History is an ocean that books help us to navigate. It is the permanence of the printed word that has allowed ideas to travel from place to place, from age to age." (Lawrence Goldstone & Nancy Goldstone, Out of the Flames 325, Broadway Books 2002) Today books are banned mainly because of sex, offensive language, violence, religion or politics, particularly in school districts. The American Library Association and the Fred Parks Law Library want you to celebrate the freedom to read. Check out the list of the most frequently banned books of the 21st century, and the list of banned Classics. How many have you read?

A selection of banned books from the librarians’ personal collections is on display in the lobby, along with books from the Fred Parks Law Library. Come see the exhibit and join us in celebrating our freedom to read.