Oct. 10 Banned Books Vigil celebrates right to readWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
The University of Toledo is honoring the right to read freely with its 16th annual Banned Books Week Vigil event, complete with snacks, prizes and even cartoons, on Oct. 10.
“We are going to have lots of good stuff. And one new thing we’re doing is a tribute to animation, the cartoons,” said Paulette Kilmer, a UT journalism professor and the event’s coordinator. She said she is grateful for the continued support from sponsors and the community.
As part of the cartoon tribute, “The Simpsons” episode “500 Keys,” in which Lisa discovers a room full of banned books at her school, will air at 10:30 a.m. The “South Park” episode “The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs,” which features a unique spin on “The Catcher in the Rye,” will air at 3 p.m.
Although the American Library Association’s (ALA) Banned Books Week took place Sept. 22?28, UT’s event is set for 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 10 in the Carl Joseph Reading Room on the fifth floor of the Carlson Library. In addition to the cartoon airings, several speakers, including students, teachers and activists, will talk about a topic of their choosing.
Cindy Ramirez, an English teacher at Bedford Senior High School, is one of the speakers. Her presentation “You Can’t Teach That!” is set for 4 p.m.
Ramirez said she assigns a banned book project to her students and gives them extra credit for attending the vigil.
“I don’t even have to push them to work. They are interested in it,” she said.
Ramirez said she has come across issues with teaching controversial books.
“Sometimes I’ve had parents say, ‘I don’t want my kids reading that book,’ and I have to honor that,” she said.
“Especially in the school system, parents want to shelter their kids and they think that if they don’t read about [controversial topics], they won’t be exposed to that and will have better lives.”
Kilmer stressed that banned books aren’t just an issue in elementary and high schools, but also at the collegiate level and at public libraries.
“We have been told by people in the area that, ‘Oh, it’s just grade school and maybe a few high schools’ and no, the problem is much, much more than that,” she said.
From 2000-09, there were 1,217 challenges to books in public libraries, 114 in college classrooms and 30 in academic libraries, according to the ALA.
Freedom to Read
Arjun Sabharwal, one of the event’s committee members and a UT assistant professor and digital initiatives librarian, said, “This is our 16th anniversary here so from time to time, it’s necessary to remind the public that it is important to maintain their freedom to read. That is an ongoing discussion on a public level. There are governments who are pulling books; there are community organizations that are doing that on the smaller level and affecting libraries.”
The archivist has his own personal experiences with reading controversial books. Sabharwal and his family left former Soviet-controlled Hungary about 30 years ago. He recalled the impact “1984” and other such books had on him at the time.
“I had a copy of [‘1984’] because someone had given me a copy in Austria so I read it real quick because I had to give the book back,” he said of George Orwell’s tale of a society tightly controlled by “Big Brother.”
“When I read that book, I was really horrified about what the government could do to turn even lovers against each other.”
Sabharwal said that in Hungary, “A lot of the books weren’t really banned [as much as] they were prevented from being published because that was the system. The institution of printing/publishing was under state control.”
Ultimately, many of the people who want to ban books haven’t actually read the material, Kilmer said.
She added, “What books we read, if they’re not good, they won’t withstand the test of time. And if they are good, they’ll be recognized as literature.”
“If they really and truly have no redeeming quality, they’ll disappear on their own. They don’t need anybody else to say we can’t have them.”
Those who attend the free event will have the chance to win several door prizes and banned books. Anyone who wishes to donate a book to the giveaway can select a title from the ALA list at http://www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/classics or donate cash. Those wishing to donate should inquire at the UT Bookstore, 1430 Secor Road, Toledo, or contact Colleen Strayer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Toledo Free Press is a media sponsor of this event. For a schedule, visit http://libguides.utoledo.edu/utbannedbooksvigil2013.
Tags: 1984, American Library Association (ALA), Austria, Bannded Books Week Vigil, Bedford Senior High School, Carl Joseph Reading Room, Carlson Library, Catcher in the Rye, Cindy Ramirez, George Orwell, Paulette Kilmer, Simpsons, South Park, University of Toledo