Each year, we have celebrated our freedom to read during Banned Books Week. This year we are excited to turn over the blog to our colleague Prof. Julie Holcomb and her students for the week. Many thanks to all of them for their hard work and inspiring words. Beth Farwell
Introduction by Prof. Julie Holcomb
Launched in 1982, Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to read. Banned Books Week was organized in response to a sudden increase in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores, and libraries. The event brings together the entire book community to raise awareness of the value of free and open access to information.
This year the students in my Introduction to Ethical Issues in Collections Management class (MST 4313) participated in Banned Books Week, each student researching and writing a post for the Baylor Libraries Special Collections blog. Using the lists of most frequently challenged books for the last ten years, compiled by the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, students selected one book to read, research, and discuss.
In writing their blog posts, students were asked to discuss the book’s content and the reason it was banned or challenged. Students were also asked to discuss their reasons for selecting their book.
I had two objectives for this assignment. First, I wanted students to learn how to craft an exhibit label for a controversial object. Developing an effective exhibit label requires both good research and accessible writing, so my second objective focused on research. To work on the research aspect of this assignment, I partnered with Beth Farwell, Director of Moody Library Special Collections. In the spring and summer of 2021, we met to discuss ways in which we could incorporate the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education into my undergraduate and graduate ethics and cultural collections courses. The Banned Books assignment met two of the Framework’s objectives: “Authority is Constructed and Contextual” and “Information Creation is a Process.” Students met with Beth who led them through a series of research activities using library resources. Afterwards, students worked independently to research and write their blog posts.
From September 26 through October 2, the BU Libraries Special Collections blog will share the posts students wrote and researched for Banned Books Week. Most of their selections were young adult (YA) books, which were challenged for their depictions of underage drinking, sex and sexuality, and violence. Often these challenges came from parents who raised concerns about the appropriateness of the book for their children. Frequently the parents who raised these challenges had not read the book, relying instead on hearsay. Two other in the ethics class selected titles that appear regularly on lists of banned and challenged books: 1984 by George Orwell and Lolita by Valdimir Nabokov.