Library Corner: We keep the light on |

Library Corner: We keep the light on

Tallie Gray
Director of Library Resources
Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association

Challenged stories. Banned writings. Burned books. Daily, libraries across the United States, including Grand County Library District, are proud to protect the integrity of all reading materials as mandated by our First Amendment rights.

Judith Krug, a freedom of speech proponent and library activist, helped found Banned Books Week in 1982. Since then, Banned Books Week, this year Sept. 22-28, is a week-long celebration of literature deemed too dangerous to read, many of which are now considered classics.

There are hundreds on the banned and challenged books list, including Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book,” Toni Morrison’s “Beloved,” George Orwell’s “1984,” Raina Telgemeir’s “Drama,” and J. K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series. Libraries use the week to bring awareness to the importance of intellectual freedom and the protection of the First Amendment.

Banning books in the United States dates to before the Civil War. To avoid debates on slavery, pro-abolitionist writings were barred from bookstores by the Confederacy. “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” by American abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe, is often cited as the first book that was banned on a national scale. Written in 1852, Stowe introduced a black protagonist in a book that is against slavery and racism. It eventually became an international bestseller and is considered to have been an influence on the Civil War.

Racism may have been an initial cause of dissonance pertaining to literature in the United States, but it was far from the last. A history of heated national debates correlates to the challenging of books.

Topics are often tied to differing moral opinions, as diverse as our country’s population. Brave authors, then and now, confront the norms of the day in their writings. Although freedom of religion and expression are protected under the First Amendment, they remain the top complaints regarding books. Sexuality, racism, violence, profanity, alternative lifestyles, anti-Americanism, witchcraft, and many other topics are also often used as reasons for challenging books.

The Library Bill of Rights is the cornerstone of Grand County Library District. It asserts that, “Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.” It is our goal to provide free access to any information and to ensure the availability of differing viewpoints to all who wish to read them.

Curious to read challenged books available within GCLD’s libraries? Celebrate your rights by going to and visiting the catalog. There you can view a list of banned and challenged books in the GCLD collection.

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