By BERT GAMBINI
Published October 2, 2023
The UB Libraries is celebrating Banned Books Week with a Read-Out, where participants can read aloud from their favorite banned book, on Oct. 4 at 2 p.m. in Lockwood Library on the North Campus.
“Banned Books Week in general and the Read-Out in particular are great ways to celebrate our ability to freely speak and express our ideas, even ideas that some might consider unorthodox or unpopular,” says Laura Taddeo, head of arts, humanities and social sciences in the UB Libraries. “The UB Libraries have developed programs like the Read-Out to celebrate that freedom to read while also spotlighting current and historical attempts to censor books.”
The Read-Out is open to everyone. Participants can register to read in advance or visit Lockwood Library the day of the event to sign up. Interested Read-Out participants looking for suggestions on what to read can view The American Library Association’s (ALA) list of banned or challenged books.
“The Banned Books Read-Out brings people together, not only to increase awareness about censorship, but to give participants an opportunity to let their own voice be heard,” says Denise Wolfe, UB Libraries communications outreach officer. “We’ve seen interest in the event from our faculty, staff and students increase since we started the event in 2015.
“The Read-Out is a means of discovery for everyone — exposing people to new ideas, sparking their search for knowledge and starting new conversations.”
But why stop with one week of programming? Banned books should be celebrated year-round, according to Taddeo.
“Banned Books Week is an opportunity for coordinated national awareness, but we should always be discussing and supporting banned books and encouraging access to information by drawing attention to threats against the right to read.”
Taddeo says the UB Libraries’ banned books events include a talk in November on “The Hate U Give,” a novel by Angie Thomas about a 16-year-old girl who witnesses the police shooting of her unarmed friend.
“The Hate U Give” has made the ALA list of the “Top Ten Most Challenged Books” since it was published in 2017.
Jared Strohl, UB teaching assistant professor in the Department of Sociology, will lead the discussion on Nov. 1 at 11 a.m. in 107 Talbert Hall, with his teaching assistants exploring the book’s themes of social justice, racism, activism, police violence and identity.
Since 1982, The American Library Association’s Banned Books Week has brought together a community of librarians, teachers, booksellers, writers and readers in response to a surge in the number of challenges to specific books.
The challenges continue to mount.
The ALA documented 1,269 demands to censor books and other resources last year. That’s more attempted book bans than in any year since Banned Books Week began.
The Libraries has a display of banned books in the lobby of Lockwood Library and provides an online list of its titles with links to the books’ catalog numbers.
“The display has been very popular among students, and we’re having a hard time keeping it stocked,” says Taddeo.
She says many students are surprised that some of their favorite books from childhood have been banned.
“As librarians and educators, one of our main responsibilities is to encourage intellectual freedom,” says Taddeo. “Our celebration of banned books inspires free thinking and drives difficult conversations around social justice and diversity.”