As we have seen recently in the news, book censorship of all kinds – even book-burning – continues today. To celebrate Banned Books Week (Sept. 25 through Oct. 2) I partnered with Brent Eviston, the head designer from the Bakersfield Museum of Art, to create a dynamic display on the main floor of the Walter W. Stiern Library. The display encourages students to read books that have been banned or challenged in libraries and schools across the United States.
I implemented a variety of outreach efforts to bring students to the library, but the large “Banned Books” display has been most successful at drawing the students’ attention in the midst of their busy day. We collaborated to create a dramatic display where students can read about the challenging and banning of books, can take lists of such books in the CSUB Library, and can also check out a selection of banned or challenged books directly from the display. Having such books available in our library is of vital importance in a free society. “The freedom to read,” says Library Dean Rod Hersberger, “is the most important value that binds all librarians regardless of their political philosophy.”
CSUB Senior Alan Crane responded to seeing the display, saying that the library “should make this display permanent – this is something that most American college students probably don’t think about.”
A quote from Noam Chomsky featured in the display reads, “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise we don’t believe in it at all.” But, book challenges continue to come from parents, teachers, clergy members, elected officials, or others, and arise due to objections to language, violence, sexual or racial themes, or religious viewpoint. In 2009, the American Library Association reported 460 challenges but of course many other cases go unreported. Frequently challenged titles include classics such as “The Great Gatsby” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Banned Books Week was started in 1982 by the American Library Association and the American Booksellers Association to raise awareness of censorship. Banned Books Week is celebrated by friends of free expression. Hersberger reminds us that “without the freedom to read, there is no freedom.”
Stop by the Walter W. Stiern Library before Oct. 8 to see the Banned Books Display in person.
– CSUB Outreach Librarian Sarah Fay Philips