By Ken Stern 

The freedom to read everything

From the editor


September 27, 2023

Every September the Weekly News focuses an editorial on Banned Books Week. The Week starts Sunday, Oct. 1 this year. Visit the La Conner Swinomish Library next week. Heck, go to a library every single day through Oct. 7. We are fortunate to have good libraries throughout the county. It is unfortunate that our county commissioners have not shown the dedicated, long-term leadership citizens need to be led into the countywide, single library district that living in the 21st century requires. But that is another editorial.

Banned Books Week editorials the last six years have heralded democracy, the First Amendment, the importance of liberty – choice – the critical need to speak against fear – for that is what censorship is, an effort to be safe and deny children the chance to imagine, explore and learn their way into the future. And while this newspaper has always acknowledged the right of individual parents to deny specific books and the possibility of a different future to their own children in the privacy of their own homes, it has always condemned those seeking to impose their personal beliefs on others in the public spaces of schools and libraries.

Each year this week’s editorial has championed the cause of a new library in La Conner and thanked those working to make it possible. On Oct. 14 please join in celebrating the hope our efforts have turned into a reality at the library’s dedication at 3 p.m.. Great job everyone. See you there.

The theme for this year’s national Banned Books Week could not be more appropriate: “Let Freedom Read.” That line echoes a historic, patriotic song written by the 19tth century Baptist minister Samuel Francis Smith almost 50 years after the Bill of Rights was adopted..

The first stanza ends: “From ev’ry mountainside / Let freedom ring!” Smith titled it “America.” It is also called “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.”

The American Library Association’s website has a section on “Banned & Challenged Books” and web pages for Banned Books Week. Here are their words:

“’This is a dangerous time for readers and the public servants who provide access to reading materials. Readers, particularly students, are losing access to critical information and librarians and teachers are under attack for doing their jobs.’ – Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom

“Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to read and spotlights current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools. For more than 40 years, the annual event has brought together the entire book community – librarians, teachers, booksellers, publishers, writers, journalists 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.

“In a time of intense political polarization, library staff in every state are facing an unprecedented number of attempts to ban books. ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom ALA documented 1,269 demands to censor library books and resources in 2022, the highest number of attempted book bans since ALA began compiling data about censorship in libraries more than 20 years ago. The unparalleled number of reported book challenges in 2022 nearly doubles the 729 book challenges reported in 2021. Of the record 2,571 unique titles targeted for censorship, most were by or about LGBTQIA+ persons and Black, Indigenous and people of color.

“The theme for Banned Books Week 2023 is “Let Freedom Read.” When we ban books, we’re closing off readers to people, places and perspectives. But when we stand up for stories, we unleash the power that lies inside every book. We liberate the array of voices that need to be heard and the scenes that need to be seen. Let freedom read!”

We need to support the reality of the First Amendment in all public spaces for all people of all ages. Let freedom read!


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