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Celebrate your freedom to read during Banned Books Week

by Laura Gleason on 2019-09-26T18:01:00-06:00 in Literature and Literary Criticism, Library Science, Education, History | Comments

This Tuesday, Darcie Hancock – who works in the circulation department at the library – found an inscription note dated Aug. 2, 1974 inside a book titled, “The fear of the word: Censorship and sex” that states:

Photo of Eli M. Oboler “To the ISU Library,
where, I hope, the only word
to be afraid of is censorship –“

Eli M. Oboler, University Librarian, ISU

The State Board of Education renamed the Idaho State University Library on the campus in Pocatello to “Eli M. Oboler Library” to honor head librarian Eli Martin Oboler (1915-1983) for his scholarly achievements in intellectual freedom and visionary leadership in the construction of the library building.  The Idaho State University Libraries have a proud heritage of supporting research and intellectual freedom, pioneered by the prolific work of Mr. Oboler. He is internationally renowned for his tenacious voice against censorship and, during his lifetime, published over 200 books, articles, essays, columns, letters and poems. Mr. Oboler actively engaged with the Idaho Library Association, the Pacific Northwest Library Association, and the American Library Association (ALA). In honor of Mr. Oboler, the ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Round Table created the Eli M. Oboler Award, a biennial award for an outstanding publication regarding intellectual freedom (Who? 2019).

Banning or challenging the access to books, library materials and services remains prevalent in the United States, typically initiated by well-meaning parents or community members who may feel that specific content is inappropriate or unorthodox for readers (McMahon). In 2018, 483 book challenges and 347 challenges to materials and services were recorded by the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom.

There are benefits to reading banned books. Readers find characters that they can relate to in books of all kinds. Readers vicariously experience situations that can help them emotionally navigate elements of their own lives. Reading banned books is a terrific way to begin conversations about controversial topics (McMahon, 2019). The diversity of ideas and their expressions helps the development of analytical thinking and learning through discovery.

The expression of ideas and the freedom to seek out information is crucial to academic success and the infrastructure of intellectual freedom. During the last week of September each year, librarians, educators, authors, publishers and readers take part in supporting Banned Books Week, an annual event spearheaded by the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom. "Censorship leaves us in the dark: Keep the light on" is this year's Banned Books Week theme, which Mr. Oboler would have undoubtedly promoted!

From September 22 – 28, 2019, libraries, schools and universities across the nation are taking part in Banned Books Week activities to raise awareness about the practice of censorship. We invite you to celebrate your freedom to read and the legacy of Mr. Oboler by reading banned books, investigating the causes of censorship, and learning about the history of Banned Books Week. You can also show your support by visiting Eli M. Oboler Library and perusing some of his works displayed by the front entrance. If you would like additional help finding books and article, please ask any of our library staff or faculty members. We are here for you! Students and the community of Idaho State University are our number one focus.

For fun, enter our Banned Books Week challenge! Pick up a coloring page at the Eli M. Oboler Library or download it (PDF) and hand it back in to the front desk, where proudly displayed is a portrait of Mr. Oboler.  Enter the contest and visit the library’s Facebook page for your chance to vote! Amazon gift cards will be awarded for the top three entries. 

- Outreach Committee | Social Media Team
  University Libraries
  Idaho State University

If you would like to report concerns about censorship, call 1-800-545-2433, ext. 4226, or fill out this online form.



Banned Books Week (September 22-28, 2019): Advocacy, legislation and issues. (2019). American Library Association. Retrieved from

Eli. M. Oboler Memorial Award. (2019). American Library Association. Retrieved from:

McMahon, R. (2019, August 8). Why your kid should read banned books? Common Sense Media. Retrieved from

Who was Eli M. Oboler? (2019). Eli M Oboler: LibGuides at Idaho State University Libraries.. Retrieved from

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