Initially created during the 1980s by the American Library Association, Banned Books Week has been a movement celebrated each year from Sept. 27 to Oct. 3. The movement has sought to spark a nationwide conversation about banned books, as well as the implications behind banning texts that are deemed too controversial. NC State University Libraries has celebrated Banned Books Week for the past nine years.
Marian Fragola, the director of program planning and outreach at NC State University Libraries, said the goals of the week are to create awareness about the dangers of censorship and to celebrate the freedom to read any material.
“Every single year, when students attend the program, they just have no idea that books are still banned,” Fragola said. “They think it was something that happened in the ‘50s, or a long time ago, but they are always surprised to find out that books are being challenged or banned today.”
In years past, Banned Books Week has been the only event, but this year is a bit different.
This year, there were two events held for Banned Books Week on Sept. 28 and Oct. 1 respectively, both took place virtually. The first event was held for current students; they were encouraged to read excerpts from commonly challenged books.
The second event was set up as a reader’s theater where alumni that had participated in Banned Books Week in the past were invited back to read monologues and scenes from banned books.
“So what’s really cool is, even though we can’t be together in person, students who are all over the country are coming back to represent this program to a new audience,” Fragola said. “And these are students who, you know, they did this as a student when they were at NC State, and they've now graduated and gone off to do different things.”
Each year, the American Library Association publishes a list of the top 10 most banned books across the nation. According to Fragola, most of these books are banned due to content dealing with violence, inappropriate language or inappropriate subject matter.
Many of the books on the list also feature LGBT protagonists and content, according to Gene Melton, a senior lecturer in the Department of English.
“There’s always an assumption that LGBT narratives are going to be sexually explicit or that they’re going to have content that is objectionable for a range of audiences in that regard,” Melton said.
According to Fragola, most of the banned books collection contains stories of underrepresented groups.
“In fact, a lot of the books that are banned and challenged are from authors who are writing about marginalized voices or stories about people of color,” Fragola said.
Banned Books Week is important for students, especially because it highlights the value of expression and reminds students of the impact books have, Melton said.
“I think that it’s helpful for young folk to realize just how valuable free access to information is,” Melton said. “Banned Books Week gives you a sense of ‘This could be taken away, right?’ That there is something that could be lost and why that freedom of expression should be defended.”