Social responsibility, librarianship, and the ALA: The 2015 banned books week poster controversy

Emily J.M. Knox, Shannon M. Oltmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


This article explores the recent controversy over the American Library Association’s poster for Banned Books Week. In particular, this article connects the 2015 controversy to broader historical issues and tensions within American librarianship concerning social responsibilities. The researchers used a qualitative approach, conducting telephone interviews with 26 individuals. The interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed deductively. The interviews revealed deep continuing tensions regarding American librarianship’s relationship to responsibilities. First, there is some dissatisfaction with the American Library Association and its Office for Intellectual Freedom. Second, there are competing conceptualizations of censorship and how to apply these differing meanings while remaining socially responsible. Third, there is uncertainty about how to appropriately act as an ally, within librarianship, to marginalized peoples.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-22
Number of pages18
JournalLibrary Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Spearheaded by Judith Krug in 1982, Banned Books Week (BBW) is a national annual campaign for awareness about censorship in the United States that is “celebrated” in libraries and bookstores across the country. BBW is cosponsored by the American Library Association (ALA), the American Booksellers Association, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Association of American Publishers, and the National Association of College Stores. It is also endorsed by the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress. Public, school, and academic libraries host read-ins, display banned and challenged books, and create displays.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Library and Information Sciences


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