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Monday, September 25, 2017

Call to Action: Don’t Get Complacent About Banned Books Week

My audience for this blog is library workers and I know you know it is Banned Books Week. I also know you are all doing something to promote the week and celebrate the freedom of all to read what they want. But, I also know that because this week comes every year and also because we always do something for it, it is easy to get stuck in a rut with how we promote and celebrate.

Now more than ever we need to remind people that Banned Books Week is NOT about removal of books from our libraries. And, it is not only about kids’ books, although those are the most challenged titles. Rather it is about the rights of every American to have access to every book. That does not mean every book is right for every reader. Yes, many books may offend you. So what? Don’t read those. No one is forcing you, and besides you’ll never be able to read them all anyway. The point is that they need to be on the shelf for anyone who may want to read that title to have access to it.

No single American has the right to demand that a book be removed from a library because they don’t like it personally. They have a right to express that they found it offensive, but they cannot demand everyone else in that community not be able to read it either. Each person can make their own choice. The library puts the books on the shelf and the patrons make their own choices from there. I bought many books for my library which I would not personally read for a variety of reasons, but I still made sure they were there for my patrons because they were titles that made our collection, the choices of titles available, better and stronger.

We are losing the ability to have civil discussions about differing opinions in this country. This inability of the vast majority of our citizens to have intelligent discourse has created a chasm, a chasm which those with extremist views have exploited and have begun to fill with hateful rhetoric. The middle, we are all too scared to jump into the fray because those extremists have become the loudest voice in the room. But this is just making everything worse.

Banned Books Week is the perfect opportunity for those not on the fringes, those who may still be very far apart in their personal views but can be united by the freedom to read what you want to come together. And since in the public library, we have always celebrated Banned Books Week, we are in the power position. We need to lead the way.

"But how?" you ask me, “I put up a display. Isn’t that enough?” No it is not.

For today’s call to action, I am asking you to go over to the official Banned Books Week website and read the press release, click on the links, and watch the video. They did a great job this year. The site will fire you up. You have your display, but you don’t have the fire in your belly yet.

Then get out there and not only promote your Banned Books Week displays, but engage your patrons in conversation about the week.  Ask at every service desk if your patrons know what Banned Books Week is about. Especially talk to those who WOULD NEVER THINK TO BAN A BOOK. Those are the people we need to talk to. Those are the people who need to get fired up. Those are the people whose voices are being drowned out in America right now.

This is about them. It is about all of us. Please engage your staff and patrons and don’t be complacent. Don’t just think because your library has no challenges that you don’t have to worry. We all are part of the problem and all need to be part of the solution.

Let’s stop being complacent and become the change makers we can be in our communities. Let’s engage our patrons in the conversation so that they go out and engage others. Let’s get the message of tolerance and respect for differences out there so we can drown out the messages of hate.

Now get out there and help us save America, one Banned Books Week conversation at a time.

For past Call to Action Posts, click here.

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