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A display of a book banned at various times, as well as Banned Books Week swag.
A display of a book banned at various times, as well as Banned Books Week swag.

Grand Island Memorial Library celebrates freedom to read during Banned Books Week

Fri, Oct 6th 2023 07:00 am

Library works on creative ways to draw in patrons

Story and Photos by Alice Gerard

Senior Contributing Writer

“Let Freedom Read” is this year’s theme for Banned Books Week, taking place Oct. 1-7.

“It’s an initiative through the American Library Association,” Grand Island Memorial Library Director Bridgette Heinz said. “It happens one week each year and is to create awareness about book bannings in the past, and it’s a celebration of everyone’s freedom to read.”

The honorary chair of Banned Books Week is LeVar Burton, an actor who starred in “Roots” and “Star Trek,” as well as serving as host of “Reading Rainbow.” He currently has a podcast called “LeVar Burton Reads.”

In Burton’s podcast, he said, “Read the books they don’t want you to. That’s where the good stuff is. Read banned books!”

“Today, books are under profound attack in the United States,” said Buffalo & Erie County Public Library Director John Spears. “Book banning is a form of censorship. It occurs when private individuals, government officials, or organizations remove books from public libraries, school reading lists, or bookstore shelves because they object to their content, ideas or themes.”

The Grand Island Memorial Library is holding a raffle and has put together a two-sided display of banned books to celebrate everyone’s freedom to read. One side is of books for adults and the other side is of children’s books. The raffle began Monday, and the last day to enter is Saturday.

Heinz said, “We have a very nice canvas bag with the redacted text that has the banned books logo that the library came up with for our system. There are two books that have been banned. I think for ours, I chose ‘Animal Farm’ and ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.’

“To enter, all you have to do is write down your name, your phone number and a book that you’ve read. It doesn’t have to be a banned book. Just something that you like. Throw it into the coffee can.”

In addition to the bags, there is also Banned Books Week swag. This includes the new library card options, which were created during a “card design contest, specifically to tie in with banned books week,” Heinz said. “We have a key card. We have our two regular cards. And then, we have these two options, as well. They are going to be available for a limited time. Patrons have an option from five different cards.

“We have plastic bracelets in different colors. They say, ‘Books unite us, censorship divides us. Read a banned book’. Then, we have four different pins that were created at the downtown library. The pins and bracelets are available for anyone who wants to take them. They are attached to the display.”

Cards and other swag have also been placed in the bag that is to be raffled off.

The winner of the bag will be chosen at random on Tuesday.

“For those who really like the bag and don’t win the contest, they’re actually available for $8 through the library’s online store and buffalolib.org,” Heinz said. The winner of the raffle will be chosen on Tuesday.

“The ALA comes out with a list of the most banned books every year. Those books are popularized again because they are in the public eye,” Heinz explained.

Heinz said banning books “opens curiosity in people. ‘Why? I don’t understand! It didn’t seem like a big deal when it came out. Now, I really want to find out what could be in there.’ For instance, the book that I finished reading, ‘The Curious Incidence of the Dog in the Nighttime.’ And then, I found out that it was banned. When I looked online, (I saw) that book centers on a 15-year-old with autism. I think what the challenges were is that some people didn’t feel it was an accurate depiction of autism. Other people challenged it because there were a few profane words in it. From what I saw, the challenges all came out of schools. Like it was on a student’s reading list, and there were parental challenges. (This is) from what I read when I went to look up why it was challenged.

“Most of the challenges now have to do with LGBTQ books. That’s been forefront in the news media. There are a lot of classics. We pulled all the ones here to have in our book display. The library system in Central (in downtown Buffalo) had a banned books committee, specifically to create programming and marketing tools and display ideas for all the libraries to use, if we chose to have a display in our library. I think the majority of the libraries did.

“Basically, we just have the stuff out there. It’s everybody’s choice to come in and they have access to everything in the building. Obviously, we have things that are more geared toward children in one area because that just makes sense. Some with the teens, and same with the adults. But everybody has the freedom to read. We’re not here to say who’s to do what. We’re here to have the information available.”

One of the goals of Banned Books Week and other library events is to encourage both adults and children to visit the public library.

“We hope that we can bring readers back,” Heinz said. “That’s why we do all the programming. It’s like ‘Hey, let’s go to the library. There’s a big program going on.’ And then, ‘Oh, hey, there’s all these books here that are free! Why don’t we go and look over here and check out some stuff?’

“It all ties together. It’s just finding new ways to bring people into the building. Libraries aren’t just books anymore.”

In addition to books, “We have a whole audio book collection here,” Heinz said. “And then, we have, for the downloadable streaming crowd, Libby and Hoopla as our two services, and there are downloadable audio books there, as well.”

There is also a library of things, which includes gear for disk golf, fishing rods and umbrellas.

Also available, through the Grand Island Memorial Library, is access to the Talking Book and Braille library through New York State Library.

“We’re registered with them. If people want to use that system, as well, that’s free,” Heinz said. “You get a reader. They will send you a catalog. You pick out what books you want, and they mail them to the house for you.”

Large print books are available for loan at the library, as well.

Upcoming events at the library include:

√ “Trunk or Treat,” set for noon to 2 p.m. Oct. 21. There is also a Halloween raffle, which began in September and is running until Oct. 13.

√ A donated book sale held by the Friends of the Grand Island Memorial Library, set for Nov. 3-4. At the same time, there will be a bake sale. The one held during the discarded book sale raised $190, which will be used for the Richard Earne Memorial Reading Garden, Heinz said.

√ The establishment of the Richard Earne Memorial Reading Garden, in stages.

“We’re working on the reading garden,” Heinz said. “From the chicken barbecue, we earned enough money to buy the furniture for phase one. All that got ordered last week. We’re going to set it up as soon as the furniture is all ready to go, so we can get some fall usage out of that.

“In the meantime, I’m still fundraising so we can add more to it. There’s going to be a Little Free Library out there. We received an Earth Day grant to get that.

“The theme of books in the Little Free Library will be gardening. All the money raised for (the reading garden) will go toward adding more furniture, expanding the gardens, possibly putting sunshades out there, and just making it a real nice outdoor space.”

A Banned Book Week raffle prize.

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