Daily Egyptian

Caution, banned books ahead!: Morris Library to celebrate Banned Books Week

By Rana Schenke, Staff Reporter

Morris Library will be celebrating Banned Books Week this year with multiple displays and a Banned Books Buffet on Sept. 26 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Morris Library.

There will be two displays in the library, one on the third floor featuring banned and challenged children’s literature, and one on the first floor behind Delyte’s Cafe. The event is free and open to the public.

The display behind Delyte’s will showcase books from the McCoy Collection, a part of the Special Collections Research Center.

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At the event, visitors will be able to take photos in a selfie booth with banned books, receive bookmarks and buttons and enjoy light refreshments, according to Pam Hackbart-Dean, Special Collections Research Center Director.

“Banned books is such a huge thing for First Amendment rights that we want to make sure that everyone is aware of the challenges that are current,” Hackbart-Dean said. “We keep purchasing [challenged] books to add to our collection to keep our collection relevant.”

That collection is the McCoy collection, started by Ralph E. McCoy, Dean of Library Affairs from 1955-1976, who was interested in the First Amendment and its origins.

“We have things in that collection that date to the early 1700s, late 1600s like pamphlets and booklets about trials for freedom of the press in England going back that far,” Aaron Lisec, Research Specialist with the Special Collections Research Center, said.

The McCoy collection includes over 10,000 books, all of which are related to the First Amendment in some way, with many of them having been challenged or banned at some point.

According to the American Library Association, a challenge is an attempt to remove/restrict access to materials based on the objections of an individual or a group, and a ban is the actual removal/restriction of the materials.

Some popular books that have been banned/challenged include the Captain Underpants series, “Fifty Shades of Grey”, and “The Hunger Games.”

Books are challenged for various reasons; the books above were challenged for, among other reasons, offensive language, being sexually explicit, and being unsuited to the age group, respectively.

“Some [books] I’m always a little surprised [to see on the list],” Hackbart-Dean said. “Right now it seems like… a lot of the books… are being banned [because] they discuss or have [LGBTQ] characters in them.”

According to the ALA’s Top Ten Most Challenged Books of 2017 list, four out of the top ten books were challenged because they contained/discussed LGBT content or gender identity.

Some books are challenged for stranger reasons.

“In 1955, the Girl Scout manual was actually challenged because it talks about an international unity and some felt that was too socialist or too communistic in theme,” Hackbart-Dean said.

(Here’s a 1955 article from The Atlantic discussing the challenge.)

Here are some other strange reasons books have been challenged over the years.

  • “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” by Bill Martin Jr. was challenged because the author shared the same name as the author of a book on Marxism.
  • “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank was challenged in Alabama because it was seen as too depressing.
  • Dr. Seuss’s “The Lorax” was challenged by the logging industry for being anti-deforestation.

Hackbart-Dean said in a lot of cases, challenges presented to school boards and library boards don’t amount to anything.

“[But] then there’s other communities that have […] actually pulled the book or done even more crazy things to make a point about it,” Hackbart-Dean said.

A lot of it just is a disagreement as to what’s appropriate for children and young adults to read and at what age. and about what subject, Lisec said. Most book challenges happen at public libraries or school libraries, places where children can get books.

“[For example,] a book that’s aimed at teenagers will talk about homosexuality,” Lisec said. “A parent will object, saying, ‘That’s something for me to talk to my kid about, and I don’t want a kid to be able to go in the library at school and read about it there.’”

Lisec said sometimes compromises will be made, such as putting certain books behind the counter so children have to ask for them.

“[To] those of us who are pretty staunch about not banning books, … that’s not really a good solution but it is a solution that some school districts do,” Lisec said.

Most people just want to read a book and someone else objects, and that’s what the First Amendment is all about, Lisec said. Making sure a government can’t control what we think, say and read.

“In Europe, [censorship] had been going on for centuries,” Lisec said. “[The founders of our country] thought it was important that ideas be able to be exchanged [here] without worrying about censorship.”

Staff reporter Rana Schenke can be reached at rschenke@dailyegyptian.com.

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