This year’s Banned Books Week feels not only quite different for librarians across the country, but critically important as we watch the hundreds of attempts out there to chip away at the foundations of our country’s democracy. 

Librarians, teachers and impassioned First Amendment scholars are concerned and frightened to see attempts to censor materials based on subjectivity and personal beliefs. That any class, political party, or religious group could be led to believe that their choices in reading materials, and only theirs, outrank all others and lead to the removal and even destruction of books is an Orwellian nightmare. 

Enter the library. It may help to remind Americans everywhere that libraries carry materials catering to all mindsets and philosophies. Regardless of whether it’s a school or a public library, the goal is to empower users of all ages to put their hands on the thoughts, subjects, and pleasure reading pertinent to your current interests and stage in life. 

The key here is only you get to decide that — and only you, thanks to that great autonomy you have because we still live in a democracy. To that end, libraries work pretty hard to ensure that the widest variety of viewpoints and subjects are reflected in their print and digital collections. 

In our collections at the Linda Sokol Francis Brookfield Library, you may be surprised to know you can find materials on Holocaust denial, Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, and so many more. There is power in choice — and freedom in the idea that anything you may want to read, on the right or on the left, controversial or not, is more than just acceptable to the folks at the library; it is downright encouraged.

As we mark another Banned Books Week, please take a minute to think clearly through the topic of First Amendment rights and how much you value your freedom to read. 

Our library staff members, volunteers, and trustees will be working this week both inside the library and out in the community to get people thinking about those rights and to empower you to keep using them.

Kimberly Coughran, Executive director