Ask A Librarian

WVU Libraries celebrates 25th anniversary of Banned Books Week

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
September 27th, 2006

The Daily Athenaeum, September 26, 2006 

By Kathryn Gregory
Senior Staff Writer

The topic of controversial books in history usually brings to mind authors like J.K Rowling, J.D Salinger and William Shakespeare. Sometimes, books can even be banned from libraries because they are deemed too offensive.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week. Banned Books Week was created to celebrate readers’ freedom to read, said Sherry Steadman, library associate at West Virginia University.

“Harry Potter always gets challenged. Even the Bible, the dictionary and encyclopedia get challenged because people take offense to the language,” Steadman said.

To promote awareness of challenged and banned books, WVU Libraries have set up a booth in the Mountainlair this week from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. through Sept. 29. It’s designed to encourage people to read the banned books, Steadman said.

“We are here to let people be aware that people are trying to restrict your right to what you can read,” she said.

WVU does not have banned books. Books are typically not challenged in an University setting. According to Steadman, banning mostly takes place at public libraries and in school systems.

“A balanced, non-biased library collection is the building block of empirical research and academic teaching,” said Sophie Bogdanski, a librarian at WVU. “Books represent our history and culture through the ages. It reflects our story as human beings.”

In many cases, books are banned for offensive content relating to sex, profanity and racism, Steadman said.

Monongalia County’s last book banning was in 1977 for “Our Bodies, Ourselves” by Boston Women’s Health Book Collection.

“It was challenged because someone thought it was pornographic, encouraged homosexuality and was filthy,” Steadman said.

Google has joined Banned Books Week with an addition to its Web site. Web surfers can read about classic books which are continually challenged in the United States.

The Web site lists 42 of 100 classic books that are recognized by the Radcliffe Publishing Course as some of the best novels of the 20th century, but are still challenged.

“It all comes down to a good author. The authors of books challenge us through their experiences, opinions and views,” Bogdanski said.

A library is there to provide, collect and preserve all books, regardless of their viewpoints and opinions, Bogdanski said.

“An author does their job by challenging us through the written word,” she said.

For more information about banned books, visit the Mountainlair booth or the ALA Web site at

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