Library Offering ‘I Read Banned Books’ Card
In response to the growing number of books being banned in its state, the Nashville Public Library is enticing new members with banned books.
According to the American Library Association (ALA), the organization has witnessed more challenged and banned books this school year than ever before. School districts across the nation are banning books with controversial topics such as LGBTQ issues, race, and sexuality. But much of that spotlight is on the state of Tennesse, which has become the leader in a push to ban contentious novels inside classrooms. In response, the Nashville Public Library (NPL) has embarked on a campaign to guide readers to the public space to check out banned books within the state.
According to reports from NBC News, the Nashville Public Library launched a “Freedom to Read” campaign. The effort will give exclusive library cards this month to 5,000 individuals who sign up before May 26th. These swanky new limited edition cards are captioned with bold text reading “I read banned books.”
The Nashville Public library says the initiative was in response to two Tennessee school districts’ recent decision to remove prominent works of literature from their school circulation. In McMinn County, the school district removed Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel, Maus. The board called the story about the Holocaust “completely unnecessary”, citing various profanity and nudity within the passages.
The other district mentioned by the Nashville Public library referenced the Williamson County school district’s decision to bar Sharon Creech’s Walk Two Moons this past February. The Newbery awarded novel raised concerns from critics because of his deep tones of death and sadness. Furthermore, the book references stillbirth, sex, and teen smoking.
Even though the effort to entice new members to the Nashville Public Library will surely be met with opposition by some, the director vows it was not a move done out of dissension from the district’s decisions. “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 in a statement. The library association sees its efforts simply as a means to remind parents and residents that they can still find these books elsewhere if they wish to read them.
The Nashville Public Library’s decision to procure new members comes at a time when Tennessee is in the limelight over the banned book controversy. During a recent, heated discussion over a bill looking to override school district authority allowing the government to choose which books can be removed from school curriculums, a legislator drew national attention for his choice of words. Republican Rep. Jerry Sexton, a supporter of the measure, said he would burn books that the committee decided to ban from schools. His words drew up images commonly connotated with book burnings, like those in Nazi Germany.
Nashville Public Library isn’t the first to start such an initiative, and it likely will not be the last. In April, the New York Public Library announced they were making a portion of frequently banned books available to read for everyone – even non-members. Anyone can access the books via the library’s e-reader app through the end of May. The country remains divided on whether or not these books should be banned from schools. As of February, Business Insider reported that at least seven states were introducing legislation to ban controversial books inside schools. More will surely follow.