By Alexa Nogueira
The Fitchburg State University library recently observed Banned Books Week, an annual event that occurs in the final week of September to celebrate the freedom to read. In honor of the event, Library Assistant Jodie Lawton created a display that featured several banned books and the reasons behind their bans.
“I’m very fascinated by the reasons why the books became banned in the first place,” said Lawton. “I think they’re very humorous and also kind of silly, so that’s why I enjoy putting together the Banned Book display.”
Most of the banned books contain subjects or themes that coincide with varying social issues. In the past, books like “Harry Potter” and “Lord of the Rings” were banned due to their supernatural themes, whereas “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” were banned because they contend with racism. In more recent years, books featuring LGBT themes have been banned.
Although books are banned on a case by case basis in individual libraries, the American Library Association has a Bill of Rights that provides “a framework for understanding how to respond when there are challenges to books,” said Dean of the Library Jacalyn Kremer.
The first item on the American Library Association’s “Library Bill of Rights” is “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.” But even so, books still end up banned today, “often under the guise of protecting students—protecting children,” said Kremer.
Although academic libraries like the Amelia V. Gallucci-Cirio library rarely have books get challenged or banned, students can still exercise their freedom to read and combat censorship of ideas by engaging with challenging literature.
“I would just love it if students walked away with actually wanting to read some of these books and check them out,” said Kremer.