Banning More Than Books

The American Library Association (ALA) is an organization that, according to their website, is dedicated to providing “leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.”  Since autumn of 2021, the American Library Association (ALA) has received over 300 book challenges as reported by the New York Times. These challenges are public requests to remove the books from libraries. Serious challenges are being made in other states to the free access to literature. This alarming trend is on the rise and is creeping nearer to Copper Hills..

When discussing book bans, a common concern is the disappearance of access to unique perspectives and knowledge. “I think it’s really important that students are exposed to a diversity of ideas and thoughts and points of view that are maybe different from their own experience,” says Erin Merrill, Copper Hill High School Librarian, “I think it helps them create empathy for one another. When we remove these books from our shelves, it removes the opportunity for students to push themselves, and to learn and to grow, and it censors information that just limits access overall,” Merrill says.

As access to books is limited, eventually, so are freedoms. “If you don’t want a house built, hide the nails and wood. If you don’t want a man unhappy politically, don’t give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none,” wrote Ray Bradbury in his acclaimed novel, Fahrenheit 451, ironically a commonly banned book.

While the Copper Hills library does not have a list of banned books, they prevent possibly inflammatory or indecent books from entering the library in the first place. Jordan School District has set guidelines for purchasing books for their libraries that are intended to limit the number of book challenges the district receives. “We do have a collection policy that we follow, and it’s a district policy that we use when purchasing books. There are a lot of books that when I’m considering buying them, I maybe won’t buy because they don’t meet our collection policy,” Merill says.

Though it is not certain, Merrill believes that books will not be pulled from the shelves at Copper Hills. Most challenges do not get very far, she says.

While banning books can negatively affect society, it can also end up being beneficial to the author. Banned Books Week is put on by ALA in the last week of September in an effort to encourage people to read books with controversial topics and content. In a perfect example of the Streisand Effect, according to reason, during Banned Books Week, activity went up on the Goodreads pages for almost all of the top 10 banned and challenged books.

Clearly, people are interested in reading banned books and believe in freedom of expression. “Literature is for me one of the most important forms of expression and limiting the different ways of expression that I interact with, that’s definitely a restriction of freedom. I’ve read some of the books that have been banned and I’ve enjoyed them,” says Ethan Hepworth, Senior.

Jeremy Checketts, Senior, says that book banning causes ignorance. “When we ban books that we don’t like, then it prevents you from learning about things that you don’t know.”

“[It] is extremely dangerous because if we become scared of ideas, then we become scared of each other and of the very ideas that underpin our society and democracy as a whole,” added Hepworth.

Checketts did point out, however, that book banning can help keep bad influences away from students. “There is an argument to say if you don’t see bad things happening in books, then it won’t encourage you to do those bad things in real life.” While this is true, according to the ALA, most banned books are not censored because of examples of criminal behavior; most often, it is for the ideas and language that is used.

Hepworth concluded, “It’s a starting point. If you look at history, book banning, book burnings, it’s the starting point for massive restrictions on freedom. We don’t want to go there.”