By Cassidy Peterson
Banned Books Week is Oct. 1-7, an annual week that brings attention to banned and challenged books.
Banned Books Week is sponsored by groups to bring attention to the freedom and open access to information in books. This week of highlighting books being banned has happened annually for more than 40 years, according to the organization Banned and Challenged Books. Last school year, 3,362 book ban attempts were made across the United States, according to Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech, a writer for The Hill.
The American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom stated that book challenges were up nearly 40% in books banned in a year compared to 2021. Books are challenged and banned for numerous reasons, such as sexual content, explicit language, racial prejudices, or LGBTQ+ content.
Among many other reasons that parents, school boards, and conservative groups push to ban books in schools and libraries each year. Even classic literary works have been banned such as, “Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck, “Forever” by Judy Blume, “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger, “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, and “1984” by George Orwell.
There are, of course, newer books added each year, as well.
Amanda Stephenson, Reference Services Supervisor at the Hutchinson Public Library, said the library has displays for the week.
Stephenson said that the library did a banned books display last year. The display included a poster titled “Freedom to Read”’ and an envelope attached with book titles that have been banned and why they have been banned or challenged.
Stephenson also said after 20 years of working at the Hutchinson Public Library she only knows of two books being removed from the shelves.
Ruth Heidebrecht, part of the Technical Services and Collection Development at Hutchinson Public Library, explained the process of challenging.
The first step in challenging a book is filling out a “Request for Reconsideration of Library Materials” and after, three employees will read it including the Library Director. If the patron is unhappy with the decision that is made, information about the book will be collected, such as what awards has it won and then it will be brought up to the Library Board.
“Most of the time our policy is that we will retain the item. We might consider moving it to children to YA, YA to Adult.” Heidebrecht said.
The two most recent books that have been challenged in the library are “Salvage the Bones” by Jesmyn Ward and “I Want To Be a Vase” by Julio Torres. Both were retained.
“There always needs to be an understanding,” Heidebrecht said of patrons who challenge books.
She recognizes that everyone has different backgrounds and triggers that may cause anger toward a book. Heidebrechet said only about two challenges come up a year, maybe a few more in the children’s section, as well.
Some patrons will come to talk about a book that offended them, but most do not actually fill out the paperwork.
Crow&Co. a local business on South Main Street in Hutchinson, is also recognizing banned books. The coffee shop and bookstore has a Banned Books Book Club. Elaine Carter, creator of the club, was asked what inspired her, which she shared was the Goddard School District’s decision to remove some books from their library in the Fall of 2021.
“I remember being astonished that censorship was something that could still even take place,” Carter said. Her idea to create the book club was to allow people to see different perspectives and not lose representation.
“If we can erase and ban things that make us feel uncomfortable, who is the defining line then on what is comfortable?” Carter said.
Some books the club have already read include, “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien, “Flowers for Algemon” by Daniel Keyes, “American Psycho” by Brett Easton Ellis, and “Melissa” by Alex Gino.
The group meets every third Saturday of the month at 5 o’clock. If you want to be involved in this week, pick up a book that is listed here and read.