Librarians aren’t renowned for their revolutionary attitudes. But if there is one subject that is guaranteed to provoke us it is an attempt to limit free access to books.

The last week in September is Banned Books Week, an annual awareness campaign promoted by the American Library Association and Amnesty International. It celebrates the freedom to read, draws attention to banned and challenged books and highlights persecuted individuals.

Looking through our library stock you will find many books that have been banned or challenged somewhere, sometime, but which we are proud to say are freely available here in Jesmond. A selection of these is highlighted below.

Come and take them out. Join our peaceful rebellion.

Banned from US mail – using an 1873 act prohibiting the sending or receiving of works containing obscene, filthy or inappropriate material.











Banned in Lebanon, 2004 – deemed offensive to Christianity.










Banned in South Africa, 1955 – ‘containing obscene or indecent material’










Banned by the Soviet Union, 1950. Ban overturned in 1990 after editing.










Banned in some US schools and libraries on grounds of pornography and violence.











Has frequently been challenged for ‘promoting witchcraft’.











The issue of what causes offence to different people and how far we should go to balance such sensitivities is important.

For an interesting discussion about free speech and conflicting cultural values, Kenan Malik’s book ‘From Fatwa to Jihad’ examines how the Salman Rushdie affair transformed the nature of the debate on tolerance and free speech.