As a reminder of the privileged wealth of information that CSUN students share on campus, the impressive archival stacks visible through the windows of the AS/RS Viewing Room in the Oviatt Library proved an appropriate setting for hosting this year’s celebration of Banned Books Week.
Usually held in late September, Banned Books Week focuses national attention on the free and open exchange of information in the book community in addition to showing the harms of censorship.
The Oviatt Library’s Banned Books Read-Out event saw CSUN students, faculty and guests enjoying a lively forum in which to exercise their right to read.
With passages from challenged classics like Ralph Ellison’s iconic “Invisible Man,” as read by special guest author Craig A. Williams, to energetic excerpts from Shel Silverstein’s “A Light in the Attic” by CSUN graduate student Candis Badgley, the audience enjoyed a literary freedom that many college students take for granted.
According to the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom, over the past decade nearly 6,000 titles have been challenged, which proves censorship is still a relevant discussion point in today’s atmosphere of seemingly unchallenged access to information.
“Just because we’re in college now doesn’t mean that down the road we won’t be in those positions in charge of keeping these items available to students and the public in general,” said Badgley, in response to future advocacy for the freedom to exchange information.
Hundreds of books get challenged or removed from schools and libraries annually with many of those restrictions going unreported according to the ALA. Although the week is intended to reflect on banned books nationwide, it is also a celebration of the fact that many of those titles still remain available today.
Librarians, educators and community members alike strive to keep these titles available by speaking out against censorship and reporting newly banned materials across the U.S.
“We in the university, and the broader community, have to fight against any kind of censorship. Even on topics that personally offend us,” said Oviatt Library Dean Dr. Mark Stover, in his introduction speech to the Banned Books Read-Out audience.
Faculty also discussed the importance of advocating the free exchange of information despite national attempts to ban materials.
“Even in one of the freest countries in the world fear and hatred will often seek silence of other voices, based on politics, based on religion, based on sex or sometimes simply based on differences in race, culture or ethnicity” said Stover.
To top the most recent 2013 list of the ALA’s challenged books is author Dave Pilkey’s “Captain Underpants” children’s series, which was challenged by some based on some violence and offensive language deemed unsuitable for its age group.
The event’s guest speaker, Craig A. Williams, author of “Mom, Have You Seen My leather Pants?”, spoke on the social implications of censorship today.
“Books inspire people to write and create and I think that if you ban material, your eliminating people discovering that in themselves,” said Williams.
Notable readings of John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” from 40-year Oviatt Library member, librarian Michael Barrett, inspired the audience’s attention following Williams, along with readings of Sherman Alexie’s “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” and Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” to round out the event.
For more information on Banned Books Week, visit the American Library Association at www.ala.org.