Joyner Library hosted its annual Banned Books Read Out event on Sept. 27 by celebrating the value of free and open access to information. Students, staff and faculty participated by reading passages from banned books they found personally meaningful during the afternoon program held in the Janice Hardison Faulkner Gallery, located on the second floor of Joyner Library.
The Department of English partnered with the library for this year’s event by helping promote the freedom to read materials once considered controversial.
Evan Schmoll, collections coordinator for the Teaching Resources Center at Joyner Library and coordinator of this year’s event, said her goal was for the audience to have a greater understanding of what it means to ban books, how censorship is handled in libraries, and how it can affect our right to free speech.
She also wanted the audience to be entertained and informed by the fact that some people can find things objectionable in the same place that others can find great value.
“This event is important because we live in a country that protects our rights as citizens to express free speech, and we need to be reminded that it is also a privilege – not everyone has these rights,” she said. “When ideas and speech are censored, it only harms the community.”
Readings covered a wide range of books including “Swimmy” by Leo Lionni (1963), “Ulysses” by James Joyce, and selected poems from “A Light in the Attic” by Shel Silverstein.
Dr. Gerald Prokopowicz, professor in the department of history, said this event helps to keep people aware that without constant attention, freedom from censorship is always at risk.
“Most people support freedom of expression, but don’t think about it much; the number of fanatics who want to suppress views they don’t like is much smaller, but they think about it all the time,” he said. “This event helps the rest of us remember to stay vigilant.”
Prokopowicz participated by reading “Swimmy,” one of his favorite picture books as a child.
“My father, who taught art, used it in his classes to show the technique of the artist and author,” he said. “When I was a little older, my dad explained that there were people who wanted the book removed from libraries because they thought it taught a communist idea. That surprised me because I thought that Swimmy was just being smart. When I had my own children, I made sure that they had a copy.”
Dr. Corinee Wooten Guy, professor of English and co-coordinator of the Banned Books Read Out, assisted in the planning and brought students over to attend the event.
“I want students to realize the importance of learning and expressing ideas freely, without fear of censorship, even from parents,” she said. “Of course, they should be aware of other people’s feelings and beliefs but also know that censorship is not a new topic, but is centuries old.
“During the presentation, the importance of parental responsibility became evident,” she continued. “Schools do not need to ban books if parents engage their children in discussions of ethics and morality.”
Because student attendees had so many questions about banned books, the program turned into a discussion with much interaction between those speaking, reading and listening.
Schmoll said that after the program concluded, at least five students thanked her for opening their eyes to banned books. One student from the College of Education told her she planned on passing on what she learned to her future students.
“By acknowledging and celebrating freedom of speech, we can hopefully have a future where there is no longer such a thing as a banned book,” said Schmoll.
For more information about this and other programs at Joyner Library contact Charlotte Fitz Daniels, programs and events coordinator for Joyner Library, at Fitzdanielsc16@ecu.edu or (252) 328-0287.