As part of a National Day of Action organized by the African American Policy Forum, two Emerson faculty members are hosting a Banned Books Readathon and Giveaway on Wednesday, May 3, to push back against a growing movement to ban books in communities and schools across America.
“When a society begins to ban books, that society is in trouble,” said Professor Kimberly McLarin, Interim Dean of Graduate & Professional Studies, who is co-hosting with Writing, Literature & Publishing Professor Wendy Walters.
Scheduled readers include Kyanna Sutton, assistant professor of Writing, Literature & Publishing, who will be reading Joseph Bruchac’s Beloved or Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving. Jon Papernick, senior writer-in-residence, will be reading Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.
Emerson community members are also welcome to donate new or used banned books that will be given away. Collection boxes can be found in several locations across campus, including the Iwasaki Library, the Marlboro Institute in the Walker Building, and the ninth, 10th, and 12th floors of the Ansin Building.
“I feel like people have the choice to not read books or to stop reading a book if it’s not the book for them, but there’s no reason to ban other people from making their own choices,” said Cheryl McGrath, Executive Director for Library and Learning.
McGrath referred to the Five Laws of Library Science theory by S. R. Ranganathan. Many librarians around the world accept the laws as the foundations of their field.
The laws presented in Ranganathan’s The Five Laws of Library Science, are:
- Books are for use.
- Every person his or her book.
- Every book its reader.
- Save the time of the reader.
- A library is a growing organism
Every person his or her book means that librarians serve a wide collection of patrons, and should acquire literature to fit a wide variety of needs, and refrain from prejudice or judging what specific patrons choose to read.
“We shouldn’t operate from a place of fear, we should operate from a place of curiosity and critical thinking. If we can approach topics with a curious mind and a thoughtful mind, the world will be a better place,” said McGrath.
While there are not currently any books being banned in Massachusetts, McLarin says we cannot stay silent. “We here in Massachusetts tend to think that we’re safe, but nowhere is safe. If it’s happening in one part of this country, it’s happening everywhere,” said McLarin.
Walters and McLarin both said their favorite banned book is Beloved by Toni Morrison, which has long faced book bans across the country.
“The things that go on in Florida and the things that go on in some remote library in Pennsylvania are just little bellwethers, little alarms about what can happen on a wider basis, and it requires pushback all the time,” said Walters.
“I know that Emerson students care about social justice, and I hope they will see this as an opportunity to do a really fun and joyful act of resistance,” said McLarin.