DO NOT READ THIS POST, EITHER

FREADOMYou’re still here? Brilliant, you are my kind of reader. Curious, independent, and patient with my lapses.

This week has been designated by the American Library Association as Banned Books Awareness week. Obviously, I spend a lot more than one week a year thinking about book activism, but at this time I get the benefit of echoes from other voices and other media.

Banned Book Week is not (just) a way of promoting literacy. It is not (just) a chance to read a good book.

It is evidence that our libraries are more than stores of books and resources. Libraries are sites of protest. Those books sit on contentious ground. Did you know there is a Library Bill of Rights?

The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.

I. 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.

II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

IV. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas. (the complete Bill of Rights can be found here)

Honestly, when did it occur to you that a library might need a Bill of Rights? It’s totally okay if it was just right now. It was pretty recent that I had to adjust my concept of libraries. Growing up, other kids had sports and church to fill their weekends. I spent mine in the safety and comfort of the library stacks. It represented nothing but positivity, possibility. There couldn’t possibly be anything WRONG with a library. And I was lucky enough to be in a community that seemed to share my enthusiasm.

LIBRARY

Yes, that really is the Boise Public Library I grew up with, and it really does have an exclamation point (which is an excellent story for another time).

So you might imagine my surprise this April at seeing my childhood district in the news over a challenged book.

You might imagine the indignant face I made at all this mess. Students who have read it say The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian with genuine affection and excitement. I moved it to the top of my reading pile, and I’m glad I did, for all of these reasons.

Cut to this summer, where I was given the task of creating a digital story in service of a cause of my choice. Here’s what I came up with:

Here’s one from a fellow talented writer that Marylhurst is lucky to have; Timothy Merrit:

Closing thoughts, ala Sherman Alexie:

I suddenly understood that if every moment of a book should be taken seriously, then every moment of a life should be taken seriously as well.

Further reading: thinkbannedthoughts, bannedbooksweek.org, and now that school is back in session, here’s the update to that story.

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