“It’s something we’ve been fighting in libraries for years. People are always challenging this or that and saying things should be banned. Libraries throughout history have always said we allow everyone free speech.”
— Jay Kaplan, executive director of Putnam County Library
Visitors to the Putnam County Library this week were greeted with caution tape and a warning that some of the works on display may be offensive to those who choose to read them.
The Putnam County Libraries Collection spent the week of September 18-24 raising awareness of National Banned Book Week, at a time when censorship is increasing in the United States.
“We’ve been impressed with the amount of reaction we’ve received on social media lately,” said Matt Miller, Putnam County Library Clerk. “People have also come in to talk about it.”
Banned Book Week is a national event hosted by the American Library Association, the National Coalition Against Censorship, the Authors Guild, and PEN America with the goal of raising awareness and giving patrons the opportunity to take a look at throwing out banned and contested books considered controversial.
“There’s been a little confusion as to where we stand on this, but we’re just out here to promote that these books exist, to get people’s attention,” Miller said. “It’s First Amendment support.”
The list of banned or contested books has continued to grow in recent years, and in 2022, according to the American Library Association, is already approaching previous years’ totals, which were the highest in decades.
In the first eight months of the year, the ALA documented 681 book challenges, including 1,651 titles. In 2021, the ALA collected 729 challenges for a total of 1,579 works.
The ALA relies on media reports and library reports, which means the actual number is likely much higher, according to the association.
Banned books include books from every era, from classic stories like Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and George Orwell’s ‘1984’ to modern bestsellers in Suzanne Collins’ ‘The Hunger Games’ and Harry Potter by ‘Harry Potter’ JK Rowling” series.
Although this year is not the first time Putnam County Libraries has attended the national event, library officials have been heartened by the response they have seen this time.
“The topic hasn’t been as hot in years past as it has been recently,” Executive Director Jay Kaplan said. “From my point of view, the reactions were consistently positive.”
The library said while the issue of controversial and banned books has drawn more of a spotlight in recent years and months, officials believe it is their responsibility to educate people on the issue and allow individuals to make up their own minds to build.
“It’s something we’ve struggled with in libraries for years,” Kaplan said. “People are always challenging this or that and saying things should be banned. Libraries throughout history have always said we allow everyone free speech.”
Putnam County Library has chosen to participate in the week-long celebration not to advocate for banned books, but to do everything in its power to allow free speech under the First Amendment and to give the community a chance to support their to formulate your own opinion. said library staff.