Rebellious Readers Collaborate and Celebrate Banned Books Week

DePaul students, faculty, staff and community members recently had the opportunity to hear directly from Chicago authors and community members about the effects of censorship on readers and writers during the “Banned Chicago!” panel discussion on Wednesday October 24th, 2014. The panel, moderated by Carolyn Rudinsky of The University Center for Writing-based Learning (UCWbL), was co-sponsored by the DePaul University Library, and supported by a grant from the Freedom to Read Foundation’s Judith F. Krug Memorial Fund. It was one of several co-sponsored Banned Books Week events designed to help readers celebrate their freedom to read.

While school and public libraries are much more on the front lines when it comes to dealing with challeges to books and requests that certain materials be removed from libraries, it is still important to remind ourselves to not take the intellectual freedom we enjoy at DePaul for granted.  Liz Coughlin, WRD faculty member and UCWbL’s Writing Center Program Director and Director of Outreach and Community Relations  states, “Banned Books Week reminds us that the freedom to read is essential to the freedom to think, and that this freedom not only is worth fighting for, but also the fight, unfortunately, is never over.  It is our responsibility, I believe, as writers, educators, and HUMANS to help students understand how serious these matters are.”

Banned Books Pop-up Shop and Information Table, Loop Campus

Even before Banned Books Week began, UCWbL and the DePaul University Library took to the (digital) airwaves on Friday September 19th, in order to discuss the Week’s events on Scrawl Radio, UCWbL’s weekly show on Radio DePaul.  In addition to promoting upcoming events, we had a chance to discuss why certain books (including the Merriam-Webster Dictionary!) have been challenged for appropriateness over the years.

Tuesday September 23rd found the Library and UCWbL at the Loop campus on the 11th floor of the DePaul Center, distributing bookmarks, sharing information and checking out library copies of popular banned books to interested readers.  Coffee and snacks were also provided as participants tried to guess which title was banned for obscenity and “bestial living.” (Hint: it’s a classic!) Many readers also chose to declare their love of reading by creating a custom-made button featuring the cover and title of a favorite banned book, or a declaration of their rebel status as a reader of banned books.

Students read from passages from banned books at the Banned Books Readout

Not only did readers have a second chance to browse and check out bannedbooks the following day in the Student Center on the Lincoln Park campus, participants were invited to read favorite passages aloud from available books. Everyone who stopped by was also invited to enter our raffle for an official Banned Books Week totebag and copy of Persepolis, encouraged to attend the evening’s panel discussion and culminating event, “Banned Chicago!”

The panel discussion, held at the John T. Richardson Library, brought together student members of 451 Degrees, Lane Tech College Prep High School’s banned book club, Chicagoan James Klise, librarian & author of Love, Drugged and The Art of Secrets, and Aaron Renier, graphic novelist and lecturer in DePaul’s College of Computing and Digital Media. DePaul Information Commons Librarian, Krystal Lewis, noted that hearing from the panelists personally really resonated for her. “It gave me a more personal connection to the issues raised during Banned Books Week.”

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