UT annual event to celebrate banned booksWritten by Staff Reports | | firstname.lastname@example.org
By Russ Axon, Toledo Free Press Staff Writer
What do “The Diary of Anne Frank,” Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax” and the Quran all have in common? All of them can be found on lists of frequently banned books.
Each of them will be celebrated, along with hundreds of other books, at the 17th Annual UT Banned Books Week Vigil from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 25.
The vigil will feature 12 censorship-themed presentations from community members. Paulette Kilmer, University of Toledo communications professor who heads the event committee, said she likes to give the presenters free rein.
“I’m only strict that they keep [their presentation] under 20 minutes because I don’t want it to feel like another lecture,” she said. “Otherwise, I encourage them to discuss what they’re passionate about.”
The free event is open to both students and the public. Attendees can also expect games, door prizes, food and music. Additionally, copies of commonly banned or challenged books will be given away throughout the day.
The vigil will be held in the Carl Joseph Reading Room of the library, which is normally a quiet study area. Kilmer said it’s one of the few times the library is allowed to get noisy.
“One of our goals is to get in as many people as we can so that anyone walking outside can hear us,” she said.
Kilmer said the event is a collaborative effort, and the committee tries to make every year unique. The vigil has opened itself up to other mediums, like comic books, video games and films. Past events have included sit-ins, a Mark Twain impersonator, and viewings of select “South Park” and “The Simpsons” episodes.
“It’s very special because it’s a unique formula,” Kilmer said. “It combines the fellowship of meeting with the intellectual benefits of listening.”
Almost every department and school at UT, as well as multiple local businesses and community members, have donated either funds or door prizes this year. With all the funds, Kilmer said, she was able to purchase about $1,500 worth of banned books.
“We have more support this year than we have ever gotten,” she said. “We can make it a better event, and we can make it so that when people come over here they really have fun.”
The vigil is part of the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week, an annual campaign meant to bring awareness to censorship throughout the world and celebrate reading.
“I consider this, as much as anything, a holiday for reading,” Kilmer said. “It’s one time in our busy schedules where we can stop to reflect on what a wonderful gift reading is for all of us.”
Kilmer remembers attending the first vigil when it was held at Thackeray’s Books, a now-closed local bookstore. Originally, it was a 24-hour event where volunteers would read selections from banned or challenged books.
“It was really fun. My students and I, we took the graveyard shift, and then we’d go to breakfast afterwards,” she said.
Kilmer helped move the vigil to UT in 2000 and fought to keep it alive.
“It was four or five years that we really struggled,” she said. “Now we’re here with the library, which is where we belong.”
The vigil is very important to Kilmer, who was instilled with a love for reading as a child.
“My mother read books with me and my brother, and then we’d sit on the front porch and talk about the book while we drank lemonade,” Kilmer recalled. “That was one of the best gifts my mom gave me.”
Kilmer hopes everyone who attends the vigil has a great time and takes away a little knowledge.
“I hope they leave thinking about how incredibly fortunate we are to live in a country where we have the right to read and nobody has the right to tell us what we’re going to read,” she said. “The right to read is the right to think freely.”
The Banned Books Week Vigil is on the fifth floor of Carlson Library at UT’s Main Campus, 2801 W. Bancroft St. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/UTBannedBooks.
Toledo Free Press is a sponsor of the vigil and Managing Editor Sarah Ottney is one of the event speakers.