Welcome to the AAS Celebration of Banned Books Week!
Every day this week, we will be bringing news of book banning from across the divisions and around the world.
Today’s topic: Provoked Thoughts and General Reflections
When Kris and I began planning this week, we asked our fellow educators if they had any books challenged or removed from other schools that they had worked in. We heard a few stories, but not nearly the volume that we expected. Today, on Friday of a week where we have seen so many people, we have finally heard the stories we expected to hear.
We heard stories of books not being taught because they couldn’t make it through the approval process. Stories of books removed from curriculum, never to be encountered again. We heard stories of teachers spoken to privately because of the content of the book in their class.
One senior remarked that a book from his class may have given him another perspective, but that it was hard to be certain; if it had been removed, perhaps some other books would have done the same or brought him a new idea.
We heard stories of books vanished from libraries. Two middle schoolers said that books had been taken from previous school libraries. One teacher mentioned that a parent had “lost” several copies of a book because she disagreed with the content in a previous school. One teacher mentioned how she would get secret books in paper bags from her librarian.
We heard students and teachers express a wide range of emotions at books being taken away from libraries: surprise, disbelief, outrage, confusion, humor and frustration. We heard concern about books being removed from the AAS Library, both in the greater sense and with a particular pointed question. We heard students encourage the removal of some books from our library, feeling offended that certain body parts and words were available in print.
Most of all, we heard respect for the library, for the curriculum, and for the right to choose. Students and teachers here have the freedom to read about any sort of topic, to explore books that scare them or make them silly, that explore gender and identity, that tackle human issues of addiction and mental health, of their culture and their ethnicity, with any history that it may include.
As librarians, we see this as both a great honor and a great responsibility. Our collection must have books for everyone, for patrons of all ages, for patrons from every country we represent, for educators and students working towards higher education. We appreciate that we are gatekeepers to information, that we have power over what comes into our space and gets removed. We appreciate that we need to be sensitive to different perspectives, both in terms of supporting our young patrons and honoring possibly concerned parents.
In a world where there is ample information available at the tips of your fingers, we appreciate the power of a book, no matter its form. Each new challenge of a book reminds us that what we choose to focus on is a powerful influence. Each new story we hear lets us into a different perspective, one that is ours to form and express. And each new perspective reminds us that we can’t necessarily force another person to hold the same views as we do.
Thank you all for your support of the library, of literature, and of our students.
We honor the books mentioned in these stories, all books that exist in our collection and throughout the school.
“The Diary of a Part Time Indian”
“The Handmaid’s Tale”
“Walter the Farting Dog”
“The Diary of Anne Frank”
“Why” (a book in Korean)
“Sex is a Funny Word”