Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Freedom to Read

Perhaps this blog post will be the biggest insight into just how scattered my mind can actually be. As you can probably tell by my last few entries, I have fallen in love with The Hunger Games series. I read both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire several times while we were on Spring Break. So, the idea of dystopic societies have been really prevalent in my mind. One evening I was settling into bed to read The Hunger Games for probably the fifth time and I started thinking about Fahrenheit 451 and the idea of books being outlawed. While we have Constitutional rights that protect our freedom of speech and the ALA fights for our Right to Read, my mind still ran to the idea that if our society fell apart and was replaced with an extremely oppressive government similar to those in The Hunger Games and Fahrenheit 451, then perhaps we would see books become illegal because they are considered "dangerous."

After thinking about that for awhile, I realized that I was clutching my copy of The Hunger Games to my chest as if I were protecting it from someone trying to take it away from me. What would happen if books were made illegal? How would people react to some government officials coming into our homes and taking our books or sending out a public notice that we must turn all of our books over to the government so they can be "disposed"? I can't imagine my life without books. I personally can't see myself giving my books over to someone to "dispose" of them. I would fight for my books regardless of how futile it may seem. I'm sure these thoughts are not uncommon among librarians, which is probably why we celebrate Banned Books Week.

Then the thought of a list of banned books got me thinking about something else. What if, all of sudden, we were only allowed to read certain genres? What if say Fantasy and Science Fiction were suddenly deemed as not necessary or even dangerous to society? What if Political Thrillers were banned because they might plant bad ideas in people's minds about the ruling government? What if mysteries were banned because they could possibly encourage people to start lives of crime or commit murder? What if we were only allowed to read government sanctioned books? What then? Chances are Fahrenheit 451 would not be on the approved list. The Hunger Games, with its unflattering portrait of government, probably wouldn't be either. Even books as seemingly innocuous as the Twilight series might end up on a banned list because the protagonists dared to challenge the ruling class of vampires. Actually, an argument can be made to ban any book if one argues hard enough. It's really quite a scary prospect that makes me glad that we have ALA. On a more base level, it makes me realize just how important the freedom to read really is to me.

This blog post IS NOT meant to start a debate as to whether or not this could actually happen. Nor is it a paranoid rant about how all books are in danger of being made illegal. I've merely been thinking about what life would be like if they WERE made illegal. Realistically, where would that leave us (both as librarians and as people)? What does everyone else think?


  1. It is amazing to me that in America we have such an information overload. We can know anything at any time, and if someone tries to hide information from us, we become raging beasts!

    Then I think about China. There is so much information that gets stoppered in the bottle. And Chinese citizens can get in REAL trouble for seeking those answers that we demand on a daily basis.

    I am terrified of a life without information. When they come asking for my books, I'll go down fighting!

  2. I think you've brought joy to my heart.