Monday, June 17, 2024

The fight against book banning at MSU

February 24, 2022
<p>Following the updated banned books list, some MSU professors and librarians are dedicated to getting these books into the hands of students.</p>

Following the updated banned books list, some MSU professors and librarians are dedicated to getting these books into the hands of students.

The fight against book banning at MSU has begun.

Every year around Valentine’s Day, Outreach Librarian Holly Flynn sets up a “blind date with a book” display at MSU’s library. The display contains a table full of books wrapped in paper, so the covers are not visible. Each book comes with a short summary, but other than that, the book remains a mystery until you check it out. 

Flynn did different themes in the past, like “meet someone new”, which contained a collection of biographies. This year, she was inspired by recent headlines to do a “blind date with a banned book” display. 

“I think my goal was just awareness,” Flynn said. “Whenever a book ban happens, it’s terrible and it makes a lot of news, but bans have been happening for decades and decades. Hundreds of years actually.”

A ‘banned book’ is a book that has been removed from a library or educational institution because they are deemed too controversial or inappropriate to read. 

English professor Ann Larabee said that this typically occurs at a local-level, when there is a community that is against the presence of a book in a school library. She said that these efforts are largely due to political polarization.

“I think the Republicans, because they have so many state legislatures right now, they're at the forefront of a kind of push to remove books from libraries right now,” Larabee said. “But is that the first time? It's not the first time, right?”

However, Larabee said that these bans don’t tend to last long.  

“There's usually a backlash against those kinds of efforts of censorship,” Larabee said. “I think in the United States, we really cherish freedom of speech. And I think that generally ends up outweighing these … local efforts.”

English professor Jyotsna Singh said banning books can prevent the free exchange of ideas. 

“I think that it's very unfortunate,” Singh said. “That in a democracy, in a free society with intellectual freedom that is so crucial to our culture, to all democratic societies, debates and differences have become so polarized.”

Singh said that as a professor, it’s hard to see the banning of books because the role of literature in society is important. 

“Literature is where you can examine different experiences,” Singh said. “Great literature is what makes you think deeply, makes you maybe rethink some of your ideas and maybe makes you more empathetic. It helps you to understand experiences of other people.”

Singh said that when students find out a book has been banned, they should look into who banned them and why. She encourages students to check out the books that MSU library recommends. And it appears that students do: Flynn said that her “blind date with a banned book” display was a complete success. 

“I wrapped up maybe about 75 (books),” Flynn said. “They were checking out faster than I could get them wrapped up.”  

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