Year after year, books are contested for one reason or another. Works of literature, such as the “Harry Potter” series, “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” have been kept out of school libraries for years, and chances are, book banning will continue long after today.
Kimberly Auger, a research librarian at Millersville, said she believes that books are banned because people are afraid of what messages may lie in the text.
“A lot of it has to do with parents not wanting children exposed to something,” Auger said. “It comes out of a place of fear, and not out of a place of learning. As politics change, as life changes, there will always be someone who is fearful, who will want someone else’s views to not be seen.”
The fear of the unknown, as well as the worldwide banning of literature, has inspired a movement within the literary community: Banned Books Week. The first Banned Books Week at Millersville was first celebrated three years ago, and has been embraced ever since. This year’s celebration runs from Sept. 25 to 29.
Nationally, Banned Books Week started in 1982 after a multitude of novels were banned from public libraries. First Amendment activist Judith Krug was one of the first to start this movement, working with the Association of American Publishers to publish the list of all of the books which have been banned across the United States.
And this week, Millersville celebrates Judith and her endeavors, by putting forth Banned Books week on campus. This week featured a lot of activities, ranging from button making to read-alongs of banned books. Auger stressed that Banned Books week serves as an awareness campaign, and that people should attempt to be more alert and in tune with the state of literature and censorship.
“We just want to make people aware that there are challenges across the nation to books,” Auger said. From a librarian’s standpoint, these challenges can be frustrating.
“No matter what, it’s your choice as to what you want to read, and it’s unfair to put your ideals and your views on me as much as it would be unfair for me to put it on you,” Auger said. “So, it’s not my job to censor what you read.”
Auger continued, “It’s my job to make available as much out there as possible to make you well rounded, even if it’s something you don’t agree on. Sometimes it’s there so that you can read it and understand what someone else is thinking on a topic, and it can give you information that you can create the dialogue.”
Many contested books fall into categories that are essentially labelled as “unsuitable for the age group.” So, middle schools and high schools are banning certain books from being in its libraries, because they don’t feel that the content matches what the students should be reading about. Depending on the area, this can include, but is not limited to, sexual content, LGBT content, drugs, alcohol, etc.
Auger encourages students to go out and read stories, even if they may not align with what they personally believe. She said that students have a lot to learn from reading, whether it’s so they can identify with a person in literature, or they know someone who identifies with a certain character in literature.
“It gives us a good opportunity to be human and have a greater understanding and appreciation, that everybody has a different life that they’re living,” Auger said. “And it may not be the life that I choose to live, but it allows me to accept people for what they are, and when they are, and be there for them when they need me there.”
Auger also mentioned that some of the challenged books, such as “Mein Kampf,” were important to read, even if they don’t align with her ideals. “Books like that are important so you keep yourself constantly informed, so when you see these signs down the road, you can stand up for it like you would in your personal life.
Some of Auger’s favorite banned books are the “Harry Potter” series, “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Great Gatsby. She said she is an especially big Harry Potter fan, as she can use the values taught in the books to reinforce the values in which she is teaching her kids.
While this marks the end of Banned Books Week at Millersville, the importance of not contesting literature remains ever-prevalent. Before the end of the week, take some time, kick up your feet and read some banned books.