September is Banned Books month for Bookmans. We talk about free expression all month long, in fact, all year long. When discussing censorship and banned books, music, movies and video games, it might be a good idea to start at the beginning. Most of us have a basic understanding of censorship; someone (or some agency) tells the public what media we cannot, or should not consume. Americans are hard wired to chafe against this and rally around intellectual freedom. Bookmans stands on the front lines of this debate including going a few rounds in court, standing firm for your right to decide how to express yourself. That part is easy, at least for a bookstore, but how does all this get started? Let’s engage in a little banned books 101.

Fight Censorship with Bookmans

The American Library Association tracks statistics on banned and challenged materials. ALA reports that the majority of complaints come from parents who see material as inappropriate for their children and therefore, all children. The process is easy. Someone files a challenge with a library. The challenge includes specifically what the complainant found offensive and states their basis for filing. The complaint is handed over the library’s board. Every library has such a committee that decides what will be on their shelves. Those choices are governed by standards stating that material cannot be subject to “discrimination” based on race, religion, sexual preference, etc. The board determines the merit of the complaint and whether or not the material will be removed from the library. The library may get rid of a book, restrict access to it or overrule the formal objection and leave the book on the shelf.

This process does give citizens a voice, which IS freedom of speech. On the other hand, does ONE person (or even a substantial group) have the right to decide for the rest of us? Additionally, who sits on these boards determining whether or not a book suits “community standards” and how are they chosen? Then again, once a complaint is made, someone has to address it. This formal process is better than employing deplorable tactics like stealth censorship (the quiet removal of a book from a library shelf without consultation). We cheer the front-line librarians who defend the presence of a title on the library’s shelves and fend off formal challenges.

There is a lot to think about and discuss. The best part is WE CAN, so let’s do that. Tell us what you think and join our #BannedBookMugShot and #ArrestedReading campaigns on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter by joining in our events at Bookmans all month long. Join the debate and remember expression is not a crime. #FightCensorship and read a banned book today.