SF State Librarians Honor Banned Books Week
From Sept.26 to Oct. 1 banned books will be recognized at SF State
September 28, 2005 7:45 PM
Librarians around the nation are fighting for the First Amendment rights of students by honoring Banned Books Week, and SF State librarians are recognizing the event this year for the first time.
The week, which starts Sept. 26 and concludes Oct. 1, “celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion, even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular, and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them,” according to the American Library Association (ALA).
To celebrate the week, SF State librarians and professors organized several group discussions with guest speakers and they encourage students to drop by and participate, said Susan Hawk, library campaign director.
“We have a serious responsibility to SF State,” said Debbie Masters, the university librarian. “This is a university of diverse points of view and our collections need to represent that diversity, and we will not allow anyone to change that.”
Banned Books Week recognizes books that are challenged as well as banned books. For a book to be considered banned, it has to be removed from a library or bookstore. A challenge against a book is an attempt to remove or restrict it, based on the personal beliefs of a certain group of people.
Books are banned or challenged for various reasons; books in the “Harry Potter” series were challenged due to concepts of sorcery and witchcraft. “In the Night Kitchen” by Maurice Sendak was challenged because it had illustrations of a young naked boy.
Out of the top 10 most challenged books in the United States in 2004, six of them were on the list for sexuality or nudity.
“Sex education (in schools) has been sex negative or almost nonexistent,” said Barbara Loomis, a history professor at SF State. “Millions of dollars goes toward abstinence-only education.”
“The catchword is ‘make good choices,’ and choices are based on information. Parents and schools want to control (information) as if people can’t make decisions for themselves,” said Yvonne Daley, an SF State journalism professor and [X]press magazine advisor.
Among the faculty group, the general consensus was that First Amendment rights cannot be taken from students, and that the Patriot Act is dangerous toward anyone looking to utilize a library.
“The Patriot Act is equal to McCarthyism and book burnings,” said Hawk. “It’s too ironic to be fighting (a war) for freedom, when the First Amendment is free speech (and it’s taken away).”
“Libraries are gagged when we’re contacted by the government,” said LaVonne Jacobsen, the head of library connections. She said that librarians are not allowed to disclose what information they are asked to remove.
“They want to ban information, not just books,” Jacobsen added.
“The great thing about libraries is that they keep things safe,” said Ned Fielden, associate librarian. “The bad thing is that libraries can be burnt down, and then everything’s gone.”
Daley noted that several centuries ago, thousands of people were killed because they demanded the right to read, and now many people “take for granted that right.”
“The feistiest people on this campus are the librarians,” said Hawk with a laugh. The rest of the group unanimously agreed.
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