MSU Libraries to celebrate Banned Books Week

Junior English major Reagan Sumrall and senior English major Hannah Phillips sort books for Banned Book Week at Mitchell Memorial Library.

Mississippi State University Libraries will celebrate Banned Books Week, which will begin Monday and last through Friday. Various events will be provided throughout the week, as well as banned books for students and faculty to check out.  

DeeDee Baldwin, a MSU history research librarian, said the purpose of Banned Books Week is to highlight the issue of censorship in schools and libraries.

“Banned Books Week is an initiative started by the American Library Association in 1982 to draw attention to the problem of censorship in libraries,” Baldwin said. “Books are most often removed from classrooms and libraries due to issues like sexuality and language. Just this month, a story was going around social media about a school library that was banning 'Harry Potter' because it could conjure evil spirits. Some of the top challenged books of 2018 were ‘The Hate U Give,’ ‘13 Reasons Why’ and the ‘Captain Underpants’ series.”

Baldwin said she is excited for the upcoming festivities and has the entire week planned out. 

“Our library is participating by having a variety of activities and promotions to celebrate the freedom to read,” she said. “There will be a week-long opportunity to have a ‘date’ with a banned book. Books will be covered in paper so that students can’t see what they’re checking out, apart from the genre. It’s a great way to discover a new book, and it was probably our most popular event from last year. There will also be free bookmarks available in the library and at Old Main, and on Monday at 4:00 p.m. in the library’s Grisham Room, the Lab Rats will be performing a variety of sketches and improv based around the theme of censorship.” 

Other events include the “Banned Book Readout,” which will be on Tuesday at 4 p.m. in the Grisham Room. Faculty and community members, including writer Laurie Parker, Starkville mayor Lynn Spruill and Gabe Smith from Starkville Community Theater, will participate and read short selections from their favorite banned books. On Thursday at 6:00 p.m., there will be a trivia contest in the Digital Media Center with four categories: “Harry Potter,” “Game of Thrones,” “Hunger Games” and general banned books trivia.

“The First Amendment in the Bill of Rights provides the right to read and access information. As librarians, we support the Freedom of Information and expression of ideas,” said Corinne Kennedy, another librarian at MSU. “Every year there are books challenged, and some titles that continue to be repeatedly contested and demanded for the removal from library shelves and class curriculum. This week serves as a purpose to teach the community about censorship and the importance of having the ability to access and read information without the interference of the government or other entities.”

Kennedy encourages everyone to come check out the events going on this week. 

“We have some great events this year, please come and take part,” Kennedy said. “We have some great prizes for Trivia Night including gift cards to restaurants around Starkville and merchandise.  For the grand prize, four people with the highest score will win 'Cards Against Humanity,’ including a Fantasy pack.”

Melody Dale, another librarian assisting with Banned Books Week, has been assisting with this event for two years. 

“To me, the purpose of Banned Books Week is to highlight books that have been banned or censored, and also to discuss the importance of the freedom to read,” Dale said. “It was founded over 35 years ago, and continues to be important today. Freedom to read is and always will be important.”

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