Story at a glance
- Book bans have become increasingly popular across the country.
- Including in Tennessee, which has banned 16 books so far.
- Nashville Public Library has launched a new campaign encouraging residents to exercise their freedom to read, including banned books.
More and more books are being banned in schools across the country and that’s inspired one Tennessee public library to push back by launching a campaign that encourages readers to exercise their “freedom to read”—including reading banned books.
The Nashville Public Library (NPL) launched the Freedom to Read campaign last week and it’s encouraging people to sign up for a limited edition “Banned Books” library card. The library is advocating for its collection of more than 2 million books and materials, which includes books that have been banned and challenged for potential banning in cities across the country.
There’s been an alarming surge in book censorship in the U.S. since last year, with 1,586 book bans or restrictions put in place, according to PEN America, a nonprofit focusing on free speech and literature.
Books that touch on race, gender, sex and LBGTQ identities have disproportionately been targeted.
“I want Nashvillians to know: Nashville Public Library will always respect your freedom to read—to independently determine what you read, and don’t read and to exercise your role in determining what your children read,” said Kent Oliver, director of NPL, in a statement.
Tennessee has been one of many conservative states banning books from classrooms and school libraries, banning a total of 16 books.
One Tennessee lawmaker even said he would “burn” books taken out of school libraries during an exchange with another state lawmaker who asked what he suggested doing with objectionable books.
NPL is attempting to open up access to local residents interested in reading, with Oliver saying he hopes the Freedom to Read campaign will bring the community together, “which is essential to sustaining our democracy.”
In its announcement, NPL noted that two Tennessee school districts had recently removed two novels, “Maus” by Art Spiegelman and “Walk Two Moons” by Sharon Creech, from it shelves.
“Maus” is a graphic novel depicting the experiences of Spigelman’s parents during the Holocaust. It’s been frequently targeted with book bans, despite winning a Pulitzer Prize in 1992.
Readers interested in banned books can find a list of them on NPL’s website, which has compiled all the books banned or challenged from the Library of Congress’ Books that Shaped America exhibit. That’s a special collection of books by American authors who, “provoked thought, controversy and change throughout American history.”
Banning books isn’t particularly popular among Americans, with an ALA survey of 1,000 voters and 472 parents of public school children finding 72 percent of readers oppose efforts to remove books from their local public libraries.
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