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By Erika Qualls Barnett

Today kicks off a week of awareness and celebration for libraries across the country.  Banned Books Week was started in 1982 by the American Library Association to show support for the freedom of information.  Many may not realize that books are frequently challenged and banned across our country each year.  As a public library, EVPL joins in the celebration this week as we work every day to guarantee the right of our patrons to access the information they seek.

One of my core library science classes introduced me to Ranganathan’s Five Laws of Library Science.  A mathematician and librarian in India in the early twentieth century, Ranganathan published a book that continues to be the foundation of libraries and librarians to this day.  These laws are:

  1. Books are for use.
  2. Every person his or her book.
  3. Every book its reader.
  4. Save the time of the reader.
  5. The library is a growing organism.

When I think about Banned Books Week, I can’t help but to focus on the second and third laws developed by Ranganathan.

Every person his or her book means that every person should have access to the book they want.  All individuals can use the library, and all libraries should have access to materials our users want.  That’s the great thing about the public library, right?  Anyone can come in the building and use the materials located there.  Even if a person doesn’t have a library card, they can still pick up a book to read in the building.  Libraries offer a wide range of materials because different people need different resources.  If EVPL doesn’t have a particular item, there is the wonderful Interlibrary Loan service to help find the material.  Because libraries should have books for all people, we do not limit, ban, or censor any materials.

Every book its reader suggests that each library item has a person that wants to use it.  Even a small demographic of people might find a book useful, but they are guaranteed access to it.  Once again, due to space at libraries, using a shared system such as ILL guarantees this service.  While one reader may not enjoy, relate, or even approve of a book, it does not mean that the library will remove the book because another individual might have a need for that item.

I encourage you to pick up a book you have never read from books that are frequently challenged.  Follow this link to the American Library Association’s list.  Recognize that while you may not agree with everything in that book, that it is a privilege that you can read that book and make that decision.  If these books were all banned, we would never know what adventures wait for us when we check one out.

Erika Qualls Barnett
Youth Experience Manager

Erika Qualls Barnett


Erika is a cardigan-loving Hufflepuff that enjoys the Cubs, reading, and walks with her husband.

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