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Students from Pittsburg High School sit on a panel at the Banned Books Showcase in the Axe Library Tuesday, Sept. 24. During the event, attendees were also able to participate in discussions covering graphic novels, censorship, and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”. Gracelyn Haile

Axe Library hosts Banned Books Week events

Censorship had been a topic of debate for many years and will likely continue to be debated in the future.  

The American Library Association puts on the annual Banned Books Week to highlight attempts to censor books in schools and libraries. Axe Library hosted several events as part of Banned Books Week and one of them was the Middle and High School Showcase on Tuesday, Sept. 24.  

Learning outreach librarian and assistant professor Ruth Monnier said it is important to keep fighting against censorship.  

“Banned Books Week is important because it’s a reminder about our fight against censorship and how easy it is for somebody to censor or other organizations or individuals to censor other people’s right to read,” Monnier said. “So, Banned Books (week) from American Library Association gives us one dedicated week, even though the fight against censorship never really stops.”  

There were multiple sessions and panels that the middle and high school students had the opportunity to attend during the showcase, one of which gave students the chance to learn about graphic novels and their process of being challenged or banned.  

“… So, we had multiple sessions throughout the day,” Monnier said. “So, one of the first sessions they (the students) had the opportunity to learn about graphic novels and their process of being challenged or banned… Pittsburg public students…presented on ‘Brave New World’ by Aldous Huxley… Following those two options, there was a key note panel with Patrick Richardson from the Pittsburg Morning Sun, Bev Clarkson, the director of the Pittsburg Public Library, and Samantha Warren, (the) Pittsburg public high school librarian and they talked about the different types of censorship that they’ve seen over time, challenges that they had faced in their line of work, and (how) they’re fighting for their first amendment right and the right of others to have access to that information… The last session that students had an opportunity to participate in, they had an option to hear about Huck Finn, or ‘Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ by Mark Twain and why that was challenged and banned…”  

For Monnier specifically, a couple books come to mind when thinking about banned books.  

“…The more common one is ‘The Hate You Give’ which is a story written by Angie Thomas that explains about police brutality and African-American urban environment and that one I think is very impactful,” Monnier said. “One of the reasons it gets banned, is because of the use of language (and) mature scenes… So, I think that one is the one for really understanding a better point of view that’s much different than my life… Also.., ‘Fahrenheit 451’ where the whole book is about censorship… Even though it’s in a dystopia society, (it) has a high impact on how banned books are functioned. But all banned books are pretty great in making you challenge and think and/or expose you to a different train of thought that maybe you are not aware of.”  

Monnier was happy to see such wide spread participation, but also urges students and anyone else to report censorship if they see it happening.   

“I thought… it was very successful to have students not only participating but also presenting and coming into campus,” Monnier said. “…So, it was nice to have different aspects across campus and across the Pittsburg community and how banned books and their first amendment rights, and censorship has impacted their life… We need to remember our first amendment right; it’s very important and that even though its being highlighted this week, it’s always happening. So, be vigilant and report when you see censorship happen because the number of banned books, I think, last year was 394 challenges or books that were attempted to be banned… But that number is probably significantly lower than what it actually is because a lot of times it goes unreported… If we don’t know it’s happening, its more prevalent.” 

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