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Challenges now arrive by the bushel
Public and school librarians continued in 2006 to respond to challenges concerning the materials on their shelves or in their curricula, with more and more complainants presenting library officials with lists of materials they want removed rather than challenges of single works. Many complainants get these lists from an organization called Parents Against Bad Books in Schools (PABBIS), which generates them and posts them on the Internet. The complainants often also go to the local media to make their demands known; overburdened school boards usually consider a few of the cases but act on requests as a whole. The result for librarians is that while the number of challenges remained flat, the amount of work has increased significantly, according to the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF).
Banned Books Week marked its 25th anniversary Sept. 23-30 with the tagline, “Read Banned Books. It’s Your Freedom We’re Talking About!” Readings, exhibits, and programs nationwide highlighted this annual celebration of the freedom to read, which gives librarians, teachers, booksellers, and others an opportunity to raise awareness in their communities about the importance of free speech and free expression. Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the ALA, the Association of American Publishers, the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the National Association of College Stores. It is endorsed by the Library of Congress Center for the Book.
The OIF has recorded about 10,000 book challenges since 1990. The most challenged books of 2005 were Robie Harris’s It’s Perfectly Normal; Forever, by Judy Blume; The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger; The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier; and Whale Talk, by Chris Crutcher. For the five-year period 2001-2005, witchcraft appears to have been a major concern: the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling topped the most frequently challenged books list.
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