Since not everyone can give as rousing of a speech about censorship as Annie Kinsella at her local PTA meeting in Field of Dreams, two local organizations are working together to celebrate the freedom to read. Austin Public Library is collaborating with favorite independent bookstore BookPeople to present a free summer series centered around banned or challenged books.
Banned Camp kicked off earlier this week and lasts through the summer, with programming to include author events, story times, book clubs, and more.
“We are very excited to be able to offer this series of events for the community to celebrate the freedom to read and free and open access and exchange of ideas,” says Austin Public Library Director Roosevelt Weeks in a release. “Libraries exist to give people access to all kinds of information, stories, and ideas – and unfortunately, that is increasingly under threat. This summer-long series of fun and informative events will highlight the importance of the freedom to read and why Austin Public Library stands against censorship and book banning.”
Censorship is on the rise in both schools and local libraries, particularly focused on books by people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community. In October 2021, the Texas Library Association (TLA) noted a “substantial increase in censorship activity” in Texas libraries, and the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) reported an “unprecedented volume” in challenges to books in the fall of 2021.
Austin Public Library issued its own statement opposing book banning and library censorship in December 2021.
“Freedom to read is a right that must be protected in our schools and public libraries, and we must not give in to the vocal few that want to speak for the many,” Weeks said in that statement.
Naturally, as Texas’ largest independent bookstore, BookPeople is the ideal partner for this series. The store helped kick off festivities by donating 20 percent of sales on June 9 toward purchasing copies of Banned Camp featured titles to be distributed to Austin Public Library for the summer program.
"Books take us on adventures, offer us new perspectives and ideas, and sometimes push us out of our comfort zones,” stated Meghan Goel, Children's Book Buyer & Programming Director at BookPeople. “They are multifaceted and not easily reduced to soundbites or headlines. That is what makes it so exciting and rewarding to be a reader! This summer we want to invite families and readers of all ages to explore recently challenged books with us; to read broadly and critically; to openly discuss which books strike chords with us as readers and what they made us think about.”
Next up is a conversation with author George M. Johnson, author of All Boys Aren’t Blue, on June 16 at 6 pm at the Carver Branch Library. Find a full list of events at the Austin Public Library website or at BookPeople.
Additional partners in presenting the event series include: Pease Park, Austin Allies, #FReadom, and the Austin Branch of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.