Banned Books Week: ASJA Members and Others Put the Kibosh on Banned Books

Editor’s note:  Banned Books Week is Sept. 23-29, and one of the great advantages of being an ASJA member is that you can do something about unnecessary censorship and protecting First Amendment rights!  Click here to find out more about joining ASJA; details on connecting with the Banned Books Committee can be found at the end of this article. You can also learn more about Banned Book Week activities and ways in which you can directly participate, including possibly promoting your own work.

Censorship is a growing threat that infringes on our foundational rights. Last year saw an increase in censorship attempts and a revitalized effort to remove books from communal shelves to avoid controversy.

The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) tracked 354 challenges to library, school and university materials and services (including books, DVDs, magazines, programs, databases, games, exhibits, displays) in 2017.

OIF is seeing an increase in “blanket bans:” removing collections of books that share commonalities. For example, removing all LGBT books, books by a certain author, or all R-rated DVDs. In addition, more censorship incidents occurred where administrators removed books without following policy because they are trying to (unsuccessfully) avoid controversy.

In the face of this rising tide, the Banned Books Week coalition encourages readers to speak out against censorship. This year’s Banned Books Week, which runs Sept. 23-29, carries the theme, “Banning Books Silences Stories. Speak Out!” Censorship thrives in silence. 

ASJA has a long history of combating censorship. In September 1981, alarmed by the removal of books and periodicals from libraries, schools, and newsstands, ASJA launched a nationwide campaign against banned books, including a read-in by prominent authors on the steps of the New York Public Library, where participants wore red-and-white “I Read Banned Books” buttons. The following year, a coalition of organizations concerned with the freedom of speech and the press declared a Banned Books Week. 

In addition to ASJA, the current coalition, which is endorsed by Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, includes:

  • American Booksellers Association
  • American Library Association 
  • American Association of University Presses
  • Authors Guild
  • Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
  • Dramatists Legal Defense Fund
  • Freedom to Read Foundation
  • Index on Censorship
  • National Coalition Against Censorship
  • National Council of Teachers of English
  • PEN America
  • People for the American Way Foundation
  • Project Censored

The coalition seeks to engage various communities and inspire participation in Banned Books Week through education, advocacy, and the creation of programming about the problem of book censorship. 

ASJA is proud to once again support Banned Books Week. And we are still selling—and wearing—our buttons.

Along with being on the Banned Books Committee, ASJA member Paul LaTour is based in Aurora, Illinois. His work has been recognized by the Chicago Headline Club, the Associated Press Sports Editors and in Best American Sports Writing. 

ASJA welcomes more members to its Banned Books Committee, which deals with instances of local challenges to books, most often in schools and libraries. If you’re interested in joining, please contact Sally Olds at This is a subcommittee of our First Amendment Committee, which focuses on many issues involving freedom of speech, and thus protects our members’ right to write and to publish, as afforded in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.