By Alice Graves
I was afraid our Read Out would be rained out, but we had absolutely perfect weather for it. Diana made a catchy poster and we spread out our collection of banned books and “I Read Banned Books” buttons. It was difficult to hear people reading over the din of the library crowd, but about 50 people over the course of two hours came over to our table to find out what was going on and were astounded to find that books they enjoyed as children were on the ALA’s Banned Books List.
“What’s wrong with A Wrinkle in Time some wanted to know. Harry Potter? Maya Angelou’s autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings? Why was someone’s life story banned? Our conversations about why different books are targeted was lively. Mostly, students were surprised that the Banned Books List exists. One young woman made a list of some of the books on our table for her future reading. We asked people to add to our list of “What banned books have you read?” and they were really thoughtful, writing a title and stopping to think of others. Different people picked up books from our display and said, “I loved this book!” Among the books they loved were To Kill a Mockingbird, Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies, The Giver and the Harry Potter series. Through the noise, we read selections from our favorite BBs. Jeffrey Austin read “America” from Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsburg, after giving us some background about the Beats and their Columbia University roots. Lana Brand read from The Sound and the Fury, we had two selections from The Catcher in the Rye, one from Brian Auriti and one from me, Alice Graves. Sara Nelson read from Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Krystal Bullers from Bridge to Terabitha, Bill Harris read from The Chocolate War, Brittany Deputy read from The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Sylvia Martinez graced us with the opening pages from Ulysses (we were all afraid to tackle the 18-page unpunctuated sentence that ends the novel).
The best part was the doctoral student who stopped by to chat and told us emphatically how much he appreciates librarians, congratulated us for being future librarians, and told us how great we are. Then he returned to the library to work on his dissertation. All in all, it was a wonderful afternoon. We SLIS students got to hang out and talk, something that is rare. Next year, at our Second Annual Banned Books Week Read Out, we’ll have to get a microphone.