After I wrote about the experiences of our lesson of the damaging effects of Banning a Book at Mansfield University during last year's Banned Book week, I was very encouraged that the fight against censorship and banning books was going in the right direction. The outpouring of emotion in defense of free speech was amazing. I heard from Australia to Ireland, and California to New York. It surely was a great feeling to let people know this type of injustice still occurs and to encourage their fight against censorship.
This year our Library, with the support of our University, is having another set of Banned Book Week events to raise consciousness. Well beyond the usual displays, some very creative staff members, Nichole Book, Jamey Harris, and Amanda Sanko), hung an art project "Out of Reach" in the atrium of our 6 story library. Additionally, the Instagram photography contest proved a winner too. Yet, the highlight was the Murder Mystery got the most attention.
We held a mock protest of censorship on the University Mall that was very successful (especially the pizza). The reaction of student passersby ranged from "What Harry Potter???" to "Why is Goosebumps banned?" to "Toni Morrison is on this list, now we have a problem!" When I asked Nicole Book about the entire event she said "The success of yesterday's event can be measured by the look of surprise on each students face as they read the title of one of their favorite books from our list of banned book. Further educating the students about who is banning books, how recently these books were banned, and why, seemed to surprise them even more and many picked up a sign and joined the protest."
Yet, despite the notoriety of our lesson, the fight against censorship continues. Just this past week, three cases of banning books came to my attention. Modesto Junior College http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/20/college-student-constitutions-modesto-california_n_3962609.html?utm_hp_ref=politics took exception with the distribution of the U.S. Constitution ON Constitution Day. Perhaps they need to reexamine their policies on "the Common Sense level". The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison was banned in Randolph County NC schools http://www.latimes.com/books/jacketcopy/la-et-jc-ralph-ellison-invisible-man-banned-north-carolina-20130919,0,3907081.story after a parental complaint. The book was found to have "no literary value" and the school board voted 5-2 to ban it. To top off this week, a mere 30 miles from my library, Pillars of the Earth was banned http://thedailyreview.com/news/book-pulled-from-class-in-troy-1.1551419 in Troy, PA due to the complaint of a single parent.
During this Banned Book week, we all need to appreciate the freedom we enjoy and the fights of those that that went before us to allow these freedoms. Yet, the most interesting and heartfelt comment of the week came from our new University President Brigadier General Francis Hendricks, USAF (Retired) and a 1979 Graduate of Mansfield University -"I spent 33 years in the uniform of the United States Air Force defending the freedoms this nation was built on, namely the Constitution, so I'm opposed to censorship."