Vol. IX, no. 1..........................................WINDOWS............................................Nov. 1996

Library Celebrates Banned Books Week

by Scott Nicholson

The fifteenth annual Banned Books Week, September 30 through October 4, was celebrated at Mary Couts Burnett Library through a "Banned in Texas" display in the lobby. This multimedia exhibit raised awareness about challenges to the freedom of speech in the state of Texas. Students gathering along the exhibit wall pointed to works they had read (e.g., Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men) and sadly shook their heads upon realizing the extent to which individuals had sought to impose censorship on the local community.

The three-part exhibit ran down the east wall of the lobby. Two dark display cases bearing signs such as "DO NOT LOOK! Banned Books Inside" and "BEWARE! Closed-Mind Destruction Zone" contained banned books viewable through peepholes in black coverings. A computerized slide show displayed information about challenges to books in the state of Texas. On a large map of Texas, pins marked the locations of 57 challenge cases. The pins led, via colored string, to information about the book, the year of the challenge, and the result (challenged, restricted, or banned).

[Photo of the exhibit] Banned Books Week itself came under scrutiny during the past year. The name of the week is misleading, as not all the works on display have been banned. An individual who feels that the community needs to be protected from a work may lodge a complaint with the local ruling body (school board, library board, town council). If the ruling body decides not to act on the complaint, the work is considered "challenged." However, if restrictions are placed on the work (age limit, parental consent, etc.), the work is then considered "restricted." If the work is removed, it is then considered "banned." Banned Books Week examines all three levels: challenged, restricted, and banned. All levels represent a challenge to the freedom of speech that is granted by the First Amendment—be it an attempt at censorship or the imposition of an individual's or a group's viewpoint.

This was TCU's third year to participate in Banned Books Week, and plans are already being made for next year's exhibit. While the observance of Banned Books Week allows the Library to make TCU patrons aware of different viewpoints, the Library is a year-round home for the free exploration of thoughts and ideas. We encourage you to come to the Library and read a banned book today!


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