What is Banned Books Week?

Banned Books Week is an annual event started by the American Library Association (ALA) in 1982. This week-long event, held during the last week of September, raises awareness of freedom of speech through celebrating challenged books and the value of free expression. Since its launch 30 years ago, more than 11,000 books have been challenged.

What do we mean when we say “Banned” and “Challenged” books?

A book is “challenged” when a person or group objects to the materials and attempts to remove or restrict their accessibility. A book is “banned” when this removal is successful. Thanks to the work of libraries and the ACLU, most book challenges are now unsuccessful.

Who does the challenging?

There is a misconceived notion that the term “banned book” means the government is trying to interfere in the public’s access to these works. Challenges are typically done on a small scale by a group of concerned citizens who attempt to have the materials removed from their local libraries and bookstores. The top three reasons cited in challenges are:

  1. the material was considered to be "sexually explicit"
  2. the material contained "offensive language"
  3. the materials was "unsuited to any age group"

Why does the ACLU fight to defend the freedom to read?

We do not want anyone else deciding what we can read, see, or hear! The ACLU is dedicated to the protection of free speech and free expression. When a small group of individuals tries to keep the rest of society from reading a book, viewing a painting, or voicing their opinions, they undermine the freedoms guaranteed for all people in the United States by our Constitution.

Challenged Books in Oregon

The ACLU of Oregon has worked with the Oregon Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee, the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom, the Oregon Intellectual Freedom Clearinghouse, and the Oregon Association of School Libraries Intellectual Freedom Committee, to create a searchable Excel spreadsheet of challenged books and other materials in Oregon libraries from 1979-2015. Both a PDF and Searchable Excel File of this database are available to the right under "Related Documents." (Updated Sept. 17, 2015)

What can you do to get involved?

  1. Read a Banned Book!
  2. Come to an event in your area
  3. Start a Banned Book Club with your friends, co-workers, and family
  4. Proudly display your "I read banned books" button


Each year, thanks to a generous donation, the ACLU of Oregon sends out thousands of "I Read Banned Books" buttons to libraries and bookstores across the state.

In 2010, we distributed buttons to more than 279 libraries and 10 bookstores in 32 counties.

Look for the buttons in your local library -- and wear one to show your support for intellectual freedom!