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Banned Books Week:

The Library Strikes Back

By James Hoyle
On October 5, 2015

Move along! These are not the books you're looking for!
Photo by James Hoyle

From September 28 October 1, Concord University participated in national Banned Books Week. Banned Books Week is an event sponsored every year by the American Library Association to promote the reading of challenged and banned material across America. 

According to the event’s official website, the event is designed to celebrate the free and open access to information. It is designed to bring all kinds of people, from readers to teachers to publishers to librarians to journalists, together in support of the right to express thoughts and ideas, no matter how unorthodox or unpopular they might be. Censorship and banning of books remains an issue that many Americans face, and over the years, many books have been banned in this country for one reason or another. According to the website, the most widely banned book in the United States last year was The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Books such as this are promoted during Banned Books Week to encourage the sharing of ideas rather than stifling them. 

In the past, Concord University’s library has celebrated Banned Books Week with a certain amount of gusto. This year was no exception, though the theme used this time was quite different. The theme this year was Star Wars, and the library was decorated accordingly. Star Wars memorabilia decorated the front desk, which included a life size cardboard cutouts of an Imperial Storm Trooper and the character Boba Fett. In addition to the décor, there were poster board graphs with information about some of the most frequently challenged books in the country. If all of that wasn’t enough, the library created and released a YouTube video depicting the staff of the library in typical movie trailer fashion fighting with lightsabers and encouraging the viewer to defy the will of the Empire, join the Rebellion, and read a banned book. 

According to Doug Moore, I.T Specialist and the one who came up with this year’s theme, they decided on a Star Wars theme to mix it up a little more fun.

“It’s easily accessible,” he said, “For several years we’ve done a more serious tone with banned books. We did a George Orwell theme a few years ago, and last year we incorporated the campus police with the mugshot board and everything, and I actually got some hate mail about I was trampling on people’s First Amendment rights to speak because they thought that we were really banning books! They didn’t really read the entire email where we say that these things happen, this what goes on across the country, and they took it too literal. So we had people sneaking by with their cellphones taking pictures of the cage I’ve got and things like that. This is more for you guys as a celebration of your right to read. By and large all over the country, this happens. Books are challenged and some are successfully banned in school districts and counties. In 2010, they even had a county in California ban the Webster’s Dictionary 10th Edition because it had a sexual definition or something in it. It was returned, but for two or three months, it was effectively banned. I tried to put together a few things about some of the most commonly challenged books and even why you should read it.” According to him, Star Wars is just an easy way to get people to realize that books can be banned rather than making it look like they are being banned. 

Anyone that would like to know more about Banned Books Week and to learn more about American's right to read and the challenges to that right is encouraged to visit The American Library Association’s official website. 

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