Saturday, September 27, 2014

Banned Books Week

The blog is busy this week! And by busy I mean there will be two posts within a matter of days. CRAZY! Anyway, my reason for writing again is that I wanted to remind everyone of our author event today. At 1pm we're holding an author talk and book signing event here at the library for Banned Books Week. But before we get into details, I wanted to talk a little bit about Banned Books Week and why a lot of us here at the library feel so strongly about it.

Firstly, since we've had several teens ask what exactly banning books is about, let me explain: Oftentimes books will be banned (taken out of schools and public libraries) because someone feels that the content of the book is inappropriate. They might disagree with the author's viewpoint on a certain subject, they might feel the book has sexual content in it that is inappropriate for the readers, or they might think it has too many bad words in it. There are lots of reasons. Oftentimes it is parents who disapprove of what their kids are reading in school or in the library. And that's totally fine! It becomes a problem, however, when the one parent who disapproves of the book tries to remove the book from the library and thus taking it away from everyone else who might want to read it. Just because you don't like something and feel like it's wrong, doesn't mean other people feel that way too. I don't like mushrooms and don't want them on my pizza, but I am not banning mushrooms from Domino's because of this. 

And when this happens, when books are taken away from the library and the public, this is a form of censorship. And there are a lot of issues with censorship. 

The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.
I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.
II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.
III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.
IV. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.
Long story short, everyone deserves access to all of our materials, whether the ideas inside them challenge us or not.

And this isn't an unfamiliar situation. Just this past week Highland Park ISD "suspended" seven books from a recommended reading list for their questionable content. One of them was Jeanette Walls' memoir The Glass Castle, despite the fact Walls is one of their keynote speakers at a literary festival next year. The other books that were called out for sexual content, drug use, and language include:

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
The Working Poor: Invisible in America by David K. Shipler
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

While the parents who fought to ban the books argue that they don't want to expose their children to this kind of mature content, many others have been pointing out that it is important to expose ourselves to new situations and push our boundaries as lifelong learners. Particularly in well-to-do areas such as Highland Park. Oftentimes we who are in positions of privilege may never encounter the hardships that people such as Jeanette Walls and Sherman Alexie have faced, but it is still crucial to our development as compassionate human beings that we read and learn as much about the world around us as we can. It broadens out horizons. We cannot allow ourselves to live in the safety of our bubbles.

And this is why we fight so hard against book banning. As a librarians, we run a free, public service. We owe it to our community to give them everything we have, whether one person likes it or not. Dav Pilkey put up an excellent video in response to his Captain Underpants books consistently being banned that you can watch here. As he explains, all you have to do is change one word.

I would also strongly recommend reading Sherman Alexie's powerful essay "Why The Best Kid's Books Are Written in Blood." It speaks volumes about the authors of these books and why it is important to spread the message of so many of these children's and young adult novels.

Finally, we would love it if you would come to our Banned Books Week author event this afternoon and listen to a panel of YA writers talk about their own work and why banned books are important to them. We're featuring Rosemary Clement Moore (Texas Gothic, Spirit and Dust), Kay Honeyman (The Fire Horse Girl), Polly Holyoke (The Neptune Project) and Lindsay Cummings (The Murder Complex). Barnes and Noble will be in the lobby selling copies of their books, and afterwards all four will be available to sign books and take photos. It runs from 1pm-3pm and will be in the multipurpose room here at Smith Public Library. Plus, it's completely free AND there will be cookies. So you had better be there.

See y'all this afternoon!

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