Speaking out for banned books

Sep 30, 2013

Volunteer reader at the 2012 KPL "Banned Book Read-Out"
Credit Kalamazoo Public Library

It may be a backhanded compliment to the importance of the old fashioned book that so many are still challenged or banned each year. The American Library Association says there were 464 reports of book censorship last year. The ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom says the top ten most banned or challenged books in 2012 included the Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey; E.L. James’ steamy Fifty Shades of Grey; The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseni; and Toni Morrison’s Beloved.

On Tuesday, October 1st, the Kalamazoo Public Library holds its annual “Banned Book Read-Out” to draw attention to the issue. The event that is cosponsored by the southwest Michigan branch of the American Civil Liberties Union starts at 7 p.m. in the library’s main branch, 315 South Rose Street, in downtown Kalamazoo.

KPL Marketing and Communication Manager Farrell Howe says it is important for the entire community to know about the issue. During the “Read-Out” volunteers from the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre, the All Ears Theatre, the Kalamazoo Public Library, Western Michigan University, and by WWMT-TV meteorologist Keith Thompson. There will also be a discussion afterwards led by WMU political science professor Mark Hurwitz.

Many attempts to ban or challenge books occur in schools but Howe says libraries can be affected too. She says some parents recently asked that the image of a book cover that included nudity be removed from KPL’s online book catalog. Howe says the library did take down the picture but would never consider removing the book from its shelves.