This December, the American Library Association is celebrating the 53rd Anniversary of opening their Office of Intellectual Freedom.

At a 1965 conference, the Intellectual Freedom Committee recommended that the ALA establish an office “to promote and protect the interests of intellectual freedom”.  A main objective would be to establish “positive mechanisms” that would defend intellectual freedoms.  The office would also work with other First Amendment groups and state intellectual freedom committees.  

In the 1982 Supreme Court case, Island Trees School District vs. Pico, the Supreme Court ruled that school officials can not ban books from libraries simply because of their content.  Later that year, at the Booksellers Association Book Expo America in Anaheim, California, 500 banned books were padlocked in metal cages with signs cautioning readers not to read these books.  The popularity of this exhibit inspired the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom to start a Banned Books Initiative, which took off to a wild success with bookstores posting window displays and hosting read-outs.

Librarians and booksellers want to connect books with readers.  We recognize that the content of some books may be objectionable to some individuals, but we also realize that there are some people who may connect with the material, feel heard or seen or understood as never before and we want to make that material available.

Books are still being challenged today.  A challenge is “an attempt to remove or restrict materials based on the objections of a person or group”.  Banning is the removal of that material from a library’s collection.  A library will have a committee meeting to determine if the challenge warrants excluding the material from the collection and in the vast majority of cases, the material remains available.

Below you will find a video of some of the books that have been challenged of banned in different school and public libraries over the years.



 Banned Books Week 2020. (2020). American Library Association.

Diaz, E., & Larue, J. (2017, November 1). 50 Years of Intellectual Freedom. American Libraries Magazine.

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom provides confidential support to anyone undergoing a challenge or ban. Support can come in the form of letters, book reviews, resources, talking points or emotional support. Report censorship online or by calling -800-545-2433, ext. 4226.


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