Recognizing banned books

Copley Library hosted its second annual Banned Book Week on campus and provided free snacks and school supplies. Tayler Reviere Verninas/The USD Vista

Nicole Kuhn | Assistant News Editor | The USD Vista

Walking past the main floor of Copley Library, students and faculty came across the library’s annual Banned Books Week. The event recognized and promoted the power of text and the importance of intellectual freedom. The display was held in the library from Sept. 24-30 for everyone to enter in contests and check out the books.

Every year, the American Library Association, along with USD librarians, celebrates the freedom of reading literature by recognizing books that have been banned or challenged in the US, such as “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Of Mice and Men,” and “Lolita.”

The Copley Library Banned Books website stated that, “intellectual freedom is a core value of the library profession.” The American Library Association defines intellectual freedom as, “… the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored.”

In an effort to raise awareness, Copley Library hosted several events, including Blind Date With A Banned Book. Students gathered in front of Copley on Sept. 29, where they chose and checked out a wrapped book, then discovered which text they had chosen.

Senior David Fox participated in the blind date event.

“I attended the banned book tent in front of the library,” Fox said. “My experience was very informative and eye opening. I’m all for freedom of speech, and infringing on that right limits the opportunity of those who express their voice through writing to be heard. It also prevents students and the public from what the world has to offer.”

Copley raffled off prizes where students and faculty participated in the “Banned Books Ballot.” The winners, Professor Susannah Stern and student Alanna Bledman, won a $225 credit to the Torero Store and a copy of their favorite banned books.

Professor Stern, who learned about the event from librarian Chris Marcum, reflected on the event and its importance.

“It’s easy to take for granted that we can access stories and information whenever we want without restriction,” Stern said. “The event is a reminder that that has not always been the case, and even today, many people believe it is appropriate to limit certain works they find offensive, objectionable, or dangerous.”

Stern won a copy of one of her favorite banned texts, “All the King’s Men.”

Sophomore Alanna Bledman heard about the event from one of the librarians, and found her favorite book, “The Color Purple,” among the banned books. “I was shocked that it had been banned,” Beldman said. “That was what really prompted me to participate.”

Dozens of banned books were set up on campus in order to appreciate the power of the written word. Tayler Reviere Verninas/The USD Vista

Bledman recognized how important it is to have on campus. “My favorite thing about the event was the display of all the banned books,” Bledman said. “I was in such disbelief that we still ban books today. I think it’s a great event to have to open discussion on censorship and how detrimental it can be.”

Christopher Marcum, Access and Outreach Librarian at Copley Library, participates in the banned book series every year.

“What we focus on, the American Library Association, is documenting instances of books being challenged in the United States,” Marcum said. “So most of the books we are offering people here today are instances or cases where the books have been banned in the US or challenged.”

“Fahrenheit 451,” by Ray Bradbury, was one of the featured books. The text was originally challenged by school boards because of the themes of alcoholism, violence, and anti-religious statements.

Marcum said he believes that the banning or challenging of texts, like Bradbury’s, strips away people’s right to read and the freedom of speech.

“Just because a school board or an upset parent thinks a book is offensive in some way doesn’t mean they have the right to restrict other people’s access to it,” Marcum said. “To me, it’s about making sure that we stay vigilant and conscious.”

Professor Eric Pierson and Reference Librarian Hugh Burkhart hosted a screening of the  film based on Bradbury’s work, “Fahrenheit 451.” The film covered themes the book presented, such as the importance of intellectual freedom.

Banned Book Week ended on Sept. 30, but Marcum and the librarians of Copley Library want to continue to get students involved. Marcum emphasized the importance the event holds to the campus community.

“The act of restricting access to the intellectual work of an author, scholar, or artist simply because it may be deemed offensive or inappropriate to a person or group of people is one that stands in direct opposition to USD’s mission to advance academic excellence, expand professional knowledge, and create a diverse and inclusive community,” Marcum said. “Banned Books Week offers our community a chance to come together and do that while also giving us a chance to think about other issues that are relevant to USD’s core values and mission, including censorship and intellectual freedom.”

This is the second year Banned Books Week has been held on USD’s campus, and it continues to make a positive impact on the student community.