Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Banned Books Week

by Missy Koester, Director, Haakon Community Library
Edited by Shawn Behrends, SDSL

This week we, as librarians and directors, have the opportunity to open our public’s eyes to what kind of books are being banned or challenged. It’s not books that give step-by-step instructions on how to skin a live cat, or build a bomb. No, it’s more likely a book that exposes society’s secrets, makes you reevaluate your beliefs, teaches you about other cultures, or to quote a friend, “drags you kicking and screaming into the 21st century”.

interactive display of banned books hidden by brown paper bags with clues and images of fire

The first year I was here I put up an interactive display of banned books. My husband helped me decorate it with black plastic table cloths and letters made of flames. We set up books that had been banned or challenged (even burned) and then covered them with paper bags. We wrote the reason they were banned on the bag. In order to find out the name of the book that was banned they had to lift the bag.

WHAT? Little House on the Prairie? Where the Wild Things Are? The Holy Bible? Hop on Pop??

It was a HIT! Patrons wanted to see for themselves if it had reason to be challenged or banned or burned. I couldn’t keep up the demand for those books, and it was fabulous!

So here is my challenge to you. Put up a Banned Book Display. Make it interactive. Give your public something tangible to discuss.

Read Missy’s entire banned books article below:



September 24th through the 30th is Banned Books Week

by Missy Koester, Director, Haakon Community Library


When I was 11 years old I found my mother’s copy of A Tale of Two Cities. I wanted to read it, so I asked to borrow it. My mom said no, it was too old for me. Well, hmm… that sounded like a challenge! So I snuck the book to my room and read it cover to cover. Several times. I LOVED that book. But, because I had to read it covertly, there was no one to share it with. I loved it in secret.

Fast forward many, (MANY) years later when I had children of my own. Some mothers held a meeting in the school library to challenge the Harry Potter series. “And while you may not care what your children read, I DO”, seemed to be the mantra of the day. The fact that they wanted to screen what their children read wasn’t my reason for being at that meeting. My issue was they wanted to screen what MY children read as well.

So, what did I do? I bought a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and read it aloud to my whole family. (Husband included) Every night we would read a chapter (or two) before bed, and discuss Harry, Hermione and Ron’s adventures. What did you think? Would you have done the same? What would you have done differently? Hogwarts is SO COOL! (Are you SURE that’s how you pronounce Hermione’s name, Mom?)(Spoiler alert- it’s not HERMY OWN)

September 24th through the 30th is Banned Book Week. This week we, as Librarians and Directors, have the opportunity to open our public’s eyes to what kind of books are being banned or challenged. It’s not books that give step by step instructions on how to skin a live cat, or build a bomb. No, it’s more likely a book that exposes society’s secrets, makes you reevaluate your beliefs, teaches you about other cultures or, to quote a friend, “drags you kicking and screaming into the 21st century”.

The first year I was here I put up an interactive display of banned books. My husband helped me decorate it with black plastic table cloths and letters made of flames. We set up books that had been banned or challenged (even burned) and then covered them with paper bags. We wrote the reason they were banned on the bag. In order to find out the name of the book that was banned they had to lift the bag.

WHAT? Little House on the Prairie? Where the Wild Things Are? The Holy Bible? Hop on Pop??

It was a HIT! Not only were they surprised about which books were banned but also why. A lot of them were checked out as well. To see for themselves if it had reason to be challenged/banned/burned. I couldn’t keep up with the demand, and it was fabulous!

I learned something when I was 11. That book that I just had to read after my mother told me I couldn’t? That book probably wouldn’t have been nearly as sweet if she had just let me read it. I would have read a few pages and given up or forgotten about it. But instead, she made it dangerous and forbidden. Of course I HAD to read it.

So here is my challenge to you. Put up a Banned Book Display. Make it interactive. Give your public something tangible to discuss.

It also helps if you tell them they aren’t allowed to read it. ;)