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Freedom to Read Week

Learn more about Freedom to Read 2022, and read a challenged book today!

What is a book challenge?

What is a book challenge?

A challenge is an attempt to ban, restrict, or remove a book from public access. Books are challenged in shops, libraries, schools, and at border crossings.    Books can be challenged for many reasons, including, but not limited to:

  • sexually explicit content
  • LGBTQ themes
  • religious viewpoint
  • depictions of violence or sexual violence
  • obscene language
  • inaccuracy
  • political viewpoint
  • racism
  • and much more

Challenges come from all kinds of people: library patrons, parents, teachers, students, elected officials, authors, corporations, border officials, religious leaders, and more. 

Some challenges are justified, for example, when a book contains dangerously misleading health information, or dated scientific information. A book might be plagiarized, full of editorial errors, or mislabelled or misshelved.  A book might overtly endorse illegal acts or behaviour that society agrees is unethical.  

Librarians take every challenge seriously, and will do research and consultations to decide if a challenge is appropriate, and what, if any, action needs to be taken.  The results could be that no change is made, or a book can be reclassified, moved, or relabelled.  On the other end of the response spectrum, a book can be made less accessible or removed from a library or curriculum entirely.  Libraries have a responsiblity to create collections that reflect their communities and societies, to provide reading material that engages, challenges and inspires, and to promote thoughtful criticism and debate.  

Why do we defend challenged material? 

Defending everyone's right to read is not defending racism, sexism, obscenity and violence. It is defending everyone's right to choose what they read and make up their own minds about things.  Banning or hiding controversial books violates principles of intellectual freedom, which is a key aspect of democratic society. 


Intellectual Freedom (Colorado Victual Library)

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This work by The University of Victoria Libraries is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License unless otherwise indicated when material has been used from other sources.