“Banned Books Week” celebrates the freedom to read and spotlights current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools. For 40 years, the annual event has brought  together the entire book community – librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers,  and readers of all types – in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even  those some consider unorthodox or unpopular. The books featured during Banned Books Week  have all been targeted for removal or restriction in libraries and schools. By focusing on efforts  across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national  attention to the harms of censorship.  

This year, the need for “Banned Books Week” is clearer than ever.

In times of intense political polarization like these, library staff in every state are facing an unprecedented number of attempts to ban books. The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 729 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services in 2021, resulting in more than 1,597 individual book challenges or removals. Most targeted books were by or about Black or LGBTQ people.  

Book Bans in South Carolina 
South Carolina, like other states, has seen an uptick in attempts to ban books.

Earlier this year, members of the General Assembly attempted to withhold state funds from public libraries that made available books they believed to be unwholesome. Legislators talked about the “prurient interest,” which is defined as an excessive interest in sexual matters. 

The debate at the Statehouse made legislators’ true motives clear. This effort wasn’t about protecting people from sexually explicit materials; it was an unconstitutional attempt to censor and restrict access to books by LGBTQ authors or books telling LGBTQ stories.

Thanks to an outpouring of opposition from South Carolinians, this attempt to withhold funds was not included in the final budget! 

Unfortunately, many local elected officials are still calling for censorship in their communities, and state legislators are likely to keep trying, too. We need South Carolinians to stay ready to push back on these censorship efforts whenever and wherever they arise.

Your voices matter. Our collective voices matter.  

The Immeasurable Value of Books 
During Banned Books Week, we talk about the fight against censorship. But that’s not all this week is about.

Let us reflect on the immeasurable value that books have on society. Books offer a window into new worlds. Books offer a reflection of our own stories and a chance to see ourselves differently. Books open up doorways to explore our history and to envision our future. The First Amendment guarantees all of us the right to share ideas and gain knowledge – and books are vital to that right.

How Can You Honor Banned Book Week? 
There are many ways to celebrate Banned Book Week.

  • Thank your librarian for their care, passion, and expertise. These professionals connect people to books and encourage a love of reading in all of us.
  • Read a banned or challenged book. Ideas can be found here
  • Attend a discussion or event this week. All across the state, libraries, bookstores, colleges and universities, and community organizations are celebrating books. 

The fight against censorship isn’t going away. If you are aware of local attempts to censor or restrict access to books, please contact Josh Malkin at jmalkin@aclusc.org.