Drinko Library celebrates Banned Book Week, displays censored material

Celebrating the freedom to read and with aims of raising awareness regarding the dangerous implications of book banning and censorship, Marshall University’s Drinko Library is participating in Banned Book Week by displaying nearly thirty books which were challenged or banned in 2018, making then more available to students.

“Parents always have the right to decide what their kids can read; where we draw the line is when they try to decide for all kids,” Ron Titus, electronic services librarian at Drinko, said. “It is important we don’t have just one perspective available. And whether people disagree with a viewpoint or not, they need to at least be willing to hear that viewpoint.”

Of the 42 books included on the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom’s recently released list of temporarily removed or banned books throughout 2018, about 27 are available at Marshall, and multiple are on display Sept. 22-28 at a table inside the library for Banned Book Week, Titus said.

Drinko is also giving out free Banned Book Week bookmarks and offering students willing to answer open-ended questions regarding the banning of books a chance to enter a drawing to receive a backpack filled with gift certificates for local bookstores and various other items. Titus said the drawing will occur Monday, Sept. 30.

The OIF’s recent report reveals that of the 483 books challenged or banned in 2018, 347 instances include library, school and university materials and services.

The number of books challenged or banned last year increased from 416 challenged or banned in 2017, 323 challenged in 2016 and 275 in 2015.

However, as the ALA’s website explains, “(Its) lists are only a snapshot of book challenges. Surveys indicate that 82-97% of book challenges—documented requests to remove materials from schools or libraries—remain unreported and receive no media (coverage).”

The books featured on the OIF’s list of the eleven most challenged books of 2018 include:

• “George” by Alex Gino

• “A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo” by Jill Twiss, illustrated by E.G. Keller

• “Captain Underpants” series by Dav Pilkey

• “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas

• “Drama” by Taina Telgemeier

• “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher

• “This One Summer” by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki

• “Skippyjon Jones” series by Judy Schachner

• “The Absolutely True Diary of Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie

• “This Day in June” by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten

• “Two Boys Kissing” by David Levithan

Five of the eleven books featured on the 2018 most challenged books list are also included on the 2017 list, and four appear on the 2016 list.

Outlining the Association’s stance on censorship, the ALA’s website reads: “The ALA condemns censorship and works to ensure free access to information. The ALA promotes the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinions even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular…”

While many instances of censorship can be simply explained by genuine concern and positive intentions on behalf of students’ parents, it is crucial to understand the negative impacts and implications of such actions, the ALA’s website explains.

It reads, “Censorship can be subtle, almost imperceptible, as well as blatant and overt, but, nonetheless, harmful (…) Often challenges are motivated by a desire to protect children from ‘inappropriate’ sexual content or ‘offensive language.’”

According to the OIF’s most recent report, the top three concerns cited as reasons for challenging materials include: “The material was considered to be ‘sexually explicit,’ the material contained ‘offensive language’ and the material was ‘unsuited to any age group’.”

The ALA’s website states that censorship in public libraries and book stores and otherwise making constitutionally protected speech unavailable to the public for any reason is a violation of the First Amendment.

If American citizens wish to protect their First Amendment rights, the website reads, they ought to keep in mind linguist, philosopher and political activist Noam Chomsky’s famous sentiment that if one does not believe in free speech for people expressing ideas he/she despises or disagrees with, then one does not truly believe in free speech.

Quoting Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr.’s statement regarding the Supreme Court case Texas v. Johnson, the ALA’s website reads, “If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.”

Douglas Harding can be contacted at [email protected].