This week of September 28-30 is the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week, which honors books challenged or removed from libraries across the US.
By Davis Dunavin (Columbia, Mo.)
Members of a librarian activist group celebrated by reading selections from banned books at Speakers Circle on the University of Missouri campus Thursday.
At Speakers Circle, Kristine Stewart, director of the MU chapter of the Progressive Librarians Guild, and other members take turns reading from classic books that have been banned, including Slaughterhouse-Five, Lolita and this one, called Daddy’s Roommate. Stewart says the group’s goals aren’t out of the mainstream.
“We advocate for freedom of access, we oppose censorship in all forms, and this week we’re just out celebrating peoples’ First Amendment rights and our freedom to read,” said Stewart.
The guild has read from banned books for the past three years, and Stewart says it’s always gone over well.
“We get a lot of really positive feedback, and a lot of students seem to like it. It’s really fun when we can get them out in the circle reading with us,” said Stewart.
Stewart says some students can be apprehensive.
“I think that at first it sounds really great, but then when they start to look at some of the books we have on display, they’ll say like, ‘Oh, I really don’t think that’s an appropriate book to have on display,’ or ‘That’s a children’s book, they really shouldn’t be talking about issues like homosexuality,” she added.
But most students watching at Speakers Circle seemed to support the cause. Student Ethan Leston says it’s important to draw attention to banned books.
“Banned books are actually good for the book in question, because it gets more people interested in the book, and so they go and they look up the author, and they’re like, hey, I like Kurt Vonnegut, and they go back and they read,” said Leston.
Banned Books Week ends Saturday, but the guild participates in other causes throughout the year, including helping local gay and Latino centers build their own libraries.