Librarians and Banned Books

I was asked to submit a short story for an anthology celebrating librarians and writing it got me thinking about…you guessed it, librarians, libraries and books. 

There was a small library next to my elementary school and each week my class went there for story hour. In addition, we were given time to search the stacks for books to take out and return books we’d taken out previously. I loved that library.

The Librarian

At the time, I thought of the librarian, Ms. Barone, as an old woman. Later I realized, she was probably in her twenties. In any case she was a little eccentric, warning us about hurting books by breaking their spines and describing the terrible things that would happen if we wrote in a book or folded down a corner to mark our place. To this day, I always use a bookmark and though I occasionally underlined or wrote in my college text books, doing it always made me uneasy. 

I was an avid reader so by the time I was ten or eleven I had read all the age appropriate books in that branch of the library and moved onto those meant for adults. Browsing one day, I discovered the “hot” shelf. Of course, I had no idea what that meant so I examined the seven or eight books it contained and selected Forever Amber, a historical romance set in 17th Century England. The book details the exploits of Amber St. Clare, a courtesan. 

The Banned Book

Forever Amber was banned by the Catholic Church and by fourteen states. My mother was furious when she saw me reading it. She immediately took me and the book to the library to confront Miss Barone. They had some words but somehow the librarian convinced my mom that I should be able to read anything that interested me. So, me, my mom and the book went home. Though I read and enjoyed the story, all the racy parts went right over my head. I didn’t understand the fuss. 

That was in the late 1940s. Fast forward to today. 

And Now?

Did you know that picture books (those intended for children 8 or younger) are being banned because their protagonists are LGBTQ or people of color?

Did you know that dictionaries and encyclopedias are being considered for banning or have been banned because they include descriptions of “sexual conduct.”

Did you know a Florida school district is considering banning Anne Frank’s diary?

And these examples are just the tip of the iceberg, as they say.

Neither of my parents went beyond the eighth grade but both were readers. I don’t know what that young librarian said to convince my mother to let me read a banned book. But I do know that this country could sure use her, or someone like her right now.

What are your thoughts on banning books?


Catherine Maiorisi

Catherine is the author of the NYPD Detective Chiara Corelli Mystery series which includes four books: A Matter of Blood, The Blood Runs Cold, A Message in Blood, and Legacy in the Blood.


  1. Book banning is absolutely heinous. Parents have the right to control what comes into their house but it’s none of their business what goes into their neighbor’s house. If they can’t establish a relationship with their children, beseeching the government to swaddle those kids in white noise isn’t going to make them safe.

  2. To Kill a Mockingbird is on many of those lists, as are so many books that moved me tremendously. Would much rather a teenager be challenged by ideas than by sitting in front of a video game for hours. It just feels like a lot of fear to me. But do you want to teach your kids to be afraid?

  3. Catherine, I love thinking about that library near your school. I spent a lot of time in our local library as as preteen. That’s where I discovered Agatha Christie and P. G. Wodehouse.

  4. Yeah… good post. I keep wondering how Forever Amber passed me by, now that I know how many banned lists it was on. I need to get my hands on it!

    1. When you read it you’ll be shocked. Not because the content is shocking but because by today’s standards it’s far from it.

  5. Banning books is horrible censorship. If parents are willing to talk to their children, words on a page will never hurt them. That includes banning books that reflect their time and language. What better teaching tool than explaining why certain words or attitudes are outmoded?

    Libraries were my refuge and my joy. I knew how to read when I started kindergarten and my best friend to this day is the only other student who also could read. We would sit in the back row and read ahead while the teacher painstakingly read aloud. I still read 3 books a week. It’s like a good sickness!

  6. Thanks for this, Catherine. I also loved my library as a child. I was an avid reader who read far above my grade level, and my biggest problem with the librarian at school was that she thought I was too young to understand the books I was taking out.

    My favorite book when I was 7 was Huckleberry Finn, and contrary to a lot of the claims advocates for book banning make, exposure to it didn’t turn me into a racist — I understood even at that age why a certain word was wrong to use after reading it. When I was eight, I wanted to reread it for the 90th time and lost my copy and the school librarian t thought I was “too young” to read it and made me stand there for 20 minutes explaining the meaning of words she picked by opening the book to a random page. Finally, she gave up and said, “I guess you can read this, but you’ll have to write a book report on it when you’re done.”

    Maybe that’s one of the reasons I’m so passionate about these stupid book bans that are sweeping the country. That and the fact that, as you pointed out, many of the books being banned are being objected to because they suggest that LGBTQ+ people or people of color are equal to white people — some people are terrified of their children learning that everyone is human, apparently.

    The bottom line is that book banning silences the voices of people who are already marginalized, and it also takes choice away from parents. If an individual parent doesn’t want their child reading a certain book, that’s their right, but no one should have the right to stop ALL kids from reading books that they don’t approve of for their children.

  7. Anyone who bans Anne Frank bans humanity for she truly was the epitome of the best that a young human being could offer the world.
    Joan Ramirez
    Jewish author

    1. But they are banning it, Joan, and other books like To Kill a Mockingbird. Even the Guiness Book of Records and dictionaries.

  8. I also walked to my local library in elementary school (mine was in the Bronx off Pelham Parkway). And when I read my way through the age-appropriate sections, I graduated from The Black Stallion and Louisa May Alcott to the “adult” section. Luckily, no one questioned my reading or tried to stop me. That library was truly a haven for me. As I hope it will continue to be for other young people today despite the shameful efforts of book banners motivated by fear of difference.

    1. Unfortunately in the cities/states where the kids most need a haven, libraries and librarians are under attack so they may not feel like havens.

  9. When I was eleven, my dad sent me to our school library to find “Lay of the Last Minstrel” by Sir Walter Scott.
    The librarian raised his eyebrows, then pointed me to the thick book in the glass shelf.
    I struggled through the poem, wondering what the hell dad was thinking.
    I went back to the librarian twice, demanding “Is this English?” and “What is he going on and on about?”
    He asked me to persevere.
    I did.
    And to this day I can recite the entire poem called Patriotism. I have often reflected on it, and wondered how it drives people to such acts of grace as well as destruction.
    The librarian did not say “foolish girl, you won’t understand a word.” He let me struggle with it.
    For that I will be forever grateful.
    Thank you Mr. Miller.

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