Harms of censorship shown

By JW McNay/managing editor

TR faculty, students and staff celebrated the freedom to read with a flash-mob demonstration Sept. 26 as part of Banned Books Week.

Banned Books Week, which took place Sept. 23-29, is designed to draw national attention to the harms of censorship, and the TR library organized a demonstration to coincide with the week.

Twenty-seven volunteers gathered in the Riverfront Cafe during lunchtime to make sure it would draw attention, TR public services librarian Tracy Soto said. The demonstration then began unannounced.

“We started with one person reading out loud from a banned or challenged book,” Soto said. “And then every five seconds, another person joined in until eventually all 27 people were reading out loud from 27 different books.”

Challenged books are books that have been formally challenged due to a disagreement in content such as drug references, religious ideas and magic, she said.

After a few minutes of everyone reading aloud, TR library services assistant director Danelle Toups briefly spoke to the room to inform everyone what was going on.

“There are places in the world where you would not be allowed to read some of the books you heard today,” Toups said. “There are even people in this country who want to decide that you or your children should not read these books. But in America, we are very fortunate to enjoy the freedom to read anything we want.”

TR library services director Susan Smith was “thrilled” with the number of volunteers that came out to support the freedom to read because it was their first time to do such a demonstration.

“We were a little unsure because you can’t sort of put up a big sign saying ‘Hey, there’s going to be a flash mob here this week’ because it kind of ruins the impact,” she said.

Faculty, students and staff in the cafe for lunch were initially unaware of what was taking place. Reading aloud got the attention of enterprise project manager Barb Hester who said she was surprised to see Dr. Seuss’ classic book Green Eggs and Ham has been banned or challenged before.

“It was kind of chaotic, so we were confused on what was happening,” Hester said. “But once we figured out was happening, it was eye-opening looking around and seeing all the different books that were banned.”