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Banned Books Week

September 28, 2018

I look forward to Banned Books Week each year but this year it came and went without notice at our library. On Monday we FINALLY re-opened our renovated library space. Unfortunately, with all of the moving and adjusting and last-minute tweaks we didn’t have enough bandwidth to add in a Banned Books Week celebration this year. This is an event we’ve had pretty good student participation in so it is disappointing that we aren’t doing it this year. I thought I’d share what we’ve done in the past in case anyone is looking for ways to jazz up their celebration next year.

Our college does something called Feel Good Friday, where each department on campus takes turns manning a booth outside of the cafeteria on Friday during lunch hours. Since we do this event outside of the library, near food services, this is a chance for us to reach students who don’t come in to the library regularly. During the Fall Semester we have been using Feel Good Friday to get student participation for our Banned Books Week activities.

Three years ago, we created a mugshot background on one of our whiteboards and had students pose in front of it with their favorite banned books or a quote from a banned book. We took their photos using our iPad and had each student sign a photo release. Then throughout Banned Books Week we posted the photos on our social media channels. We actually had students wait in line to have their photo taken – which never happens with students on our campus, unless they’re waiting for their deli combos at the snack bar.

The following year we had faculty, staff, and administrators read passages from their favorite Banned Books which we posted to YouTube as part of ALA’s Virtual Read-Out. For our Feel Good Friday booth, we used a felt board to have students match covers of banned books with the reasons they had been banned.  This activity was not quite as popular as the photo booth but the students that stopped engaged with us much more by discussing and debating reasons why some of their favorite books had been banned or challenged.

Last year, we went back to our photo booth idea but instead of mug shots, we used a poster printer to print large covers of banned or challenged books and mounted them on dowel rods. The students got really creative with how they posted and who they posed with. We even had faculty stop and pose for photos. One of our staff members had the good idea of asking the students to provide their social media handles when they signed the release form so we could tag them as we posted the photos to our social media sites throughout the week.  Students were very happy to do this and those posts were some of our most interacted with posts from last year.

After three good years of programming, it’s a bummer that we dropped the ball this year. We did hand out bookmarks and stickers at the circulation desk but it just wasn’t the same. I’d love to hear what other schools do to celebrate because I need to start planning our comeback for next year!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 3, 2018 11:23 pm

    Personally I think that Banned Book Week is past its prime. Many of the books are not really “banned” but may have been challenged in a limited number of places. Even when challenged, most books remain on the shelf. Is there any book that has been made completely unavailable in recent years, which is what a “ban” would imply. In that ALA recently demoted Laura Ingalls Wilder, it seems a bit disingenuous to criticize others for challenges.

    • smartin592 permalink
      October 3, 2018 11:47 pm

      Judith – I appreciate your feedback and I agree that “Banned” books week is a bit of a misnomer because as you say very few books are actually “banned”. However, I think its a good way to engage students with our collection, start a conversation with them about free speech, and hopefully help them realize that the library is a place that tries to avoid censorship.

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