Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association
How do you choose which books to read? By author, title, genre, subject…? How would it be if someone else made those decisions for you?
Throughout history, monarchs, governments, religions, and social goups have sought to restrict access to certain books for all sorts of reasons. Even today, books are often challenged (requested to be restricted/banned), restricted (access is limited to certain people), or banned outright.
Some of the odder banned and challenged books are:
The Lorax (Dr Seuss): Challenged in California because it criminalised the forestry industry.
Alice in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll): Banned in 1930’s China because it challenged the inherent superiority of humans over animals.
Animal Farm (George Orwell): Simultaneously banned for criticising (USSR) and promoting (USA) communism.
But aside from some frankly bizarre objections, many books are challenged for their political or religious views, or for the scientific or medical information they give, or (in many cases) because people are worried about the impact they might have on children.
For more information on what books have been challenged and banned, and why, check out Auckland Libraries’ resources on banned books.
In New Zealand, the Office of Film and Literature Classification manages the censorship of books, magazines, films, video games, and a variety of other media. They have guidelines about what can be banned or restricted, and for what reasons. Currently there are about 1300 titles that are banned outright and many others that have age restrictions. There are details of classification decisions on the OFLC website. They also provide an interesting timeline of the history of censorship in New Zealand.
This week is Banned Books Week, which is designed to highlight the issues surrounding censorship and intellectual freedom. Libraries (including CPIT Library) believe that it is important for people to have access to information, whether we personally agree with it or not. The Library and Information Association of Aotearoa New Zealand has adopted a Statement on Intellectual Freedom that puts this much better than I could.
CPIT library has put together a display of books that either are currently banned or restricted somewhere in the world, or that have been banned in the past – obviously, we don’t have any books that are currently banned in New Zealand! Come and have a look this week – how many have you read?