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Students recognize banned books week

Amanda Gray | Monday, September 28, 2009

Notre Dame participated for the first time in Banned Books Week, which begins today, with a Banned Book Read Out Thursday, Liz Martinez, organizer of the Read Out and Notre Dame sociology graduate student, said.

“This is the first one at Notre Dame, but it’s been going on for 27 years,” Martinez said.

The event, started by the American Library Association in 1982, was near the reflecting pool in front of the library.

Martinez said a personal motivation and her in-depth study of the sociology of the First Amendment helped her in creating the event.

“The freedom of expression is the foundation for everything else that we do, from politics to the media to education,” Martinez said.

Martinez said she wanted to call attention to the fact that people take freedom of expression for granted.

“The main effort behind banning books is to protect children,” Martinez said. “Everyone respects that. But they shouldn’t limit other people’s choices.”

Doug Archer, Notre Dame Reference and Peace Studies librarian and past Chair of the American Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee, also helped bring the event together.

“This Banned Books Read Out is a chance to celebrate the freedom to read – an essential corollary of the First Amendment rights of free speech and a free press,” Archer said. “As a librarian, the freedom to read is one of my core values.”

Archer said Banned Books Week is important to keep people aware of the situation of banning books.

“Many people are unaware of how frequently books are challenged and of the wide variety of reasons for those challenges,” Archer said. “[Banned Books Week] shines a light on the struggle to keep books on the shelves and available for people to read – or not read – as they choose.”

Martinez said that other places, like bookstores, libraries and the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum in Chicago among others, participate as well.

“All it takes to have a BBW read out is at least one interested person to start the ball rolling,” Archer said. “They are held in libraries and bookstores in hundreds of locations around the U.S.”

The books read at the Read Out by students were chosen off of two lists – the 10 most challenged books in 2008 and the 100 most challenged books of all time, Martinez said.

Books read included excerpts from the “Harry Potter” series, “1984” and “The Catcher in the Rye.”

Banned Books Week happens all across the country on the last week of September, Martinez said.