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Book bans ‘promote ignorance’ locally, nationally

Book+bans+promote+ignorance+locally%2C+nationally

Books have been an integral part of life for centuries, and they are even more important in schools, despite attempts nationwide to censor certain titles and topics.

The American Library Association reported that of the top 13 most challenged books of 2022, most were written by or about LGBTQIA+ people or people of color. The top three are “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe, “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson and “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison. 

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Colorado has seen only eight ban attempts from January to August. However, in the first eight months of 2023, there were at least 136 book titles challenged in the state, which is a 143% increase from 2022, when 56 titles were challenged. 

Successful book bans mostly happen in public school districts because that’s where government officials have a higher degree of control over curriculum and content because they are state-funded.

Many people have their own reasons for requesting a book to be removed from a library. 

“There are people who maybe legitimately feel like they are protecting people from seeing something that they believe shouldn’t be seen at a certain age or by certain people,” said Kristen Draper, the manager of Old Town Library, one of three Poudre River Public Library District libraries. 

While some might believe they are helping, censorship and book bans ultimately cause more harm than good. 

“The reason it’s so important is that we have those stories for people to see themselves reflected in,” Draper said. “We talk about (how) books can be mirrors, windows and sliding glass doors. And so, you know, it’s really nice to see yourself reflected in a book, right? … It’s that level of understanding that I think we can only get from listening and reading and hearing about other people’s life experiences.”

Public libraries grant access to information and therefore freedom that comes with learning and exploring. Moreover, libraries celebrate and preserve culture and history in a way that is not common in many other places. Libraries are unique in both the stories they hold and their patrons. 

“If you don’t want to read it, don’t read it,” Draper said. “My general rule for a public library is if I don’t have something in my library to offend everyone, I am not doing my job. So everyone who walks through my doors should find something that offends them.” 

Although university libraries function very differently than public libraries and public school libraries, censorship still impacts college campuses, whether it be today or in the future. 

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“It’s because (book bans have) been happening in the last couple of years,” Draper said. “A lot of college students weren’t necessarily seeing it in their high schools, but I feel like a lot of high school students are now seeing it and feeling it.”

Jace Long is a teen librarian and scheduler at the Old Town Library and has had experience with requests regarding specific books. 

I have had to interact with customers and patrons seeking information on how to put in a complaint about books or had lengthy interactions with patrons being upset over certain books,” Long wrote in an email. 

Although Colorado has been fairly unencumbered by censorship, it is still important to discuss in the state as well as nationally. 

“Any time a book gets banned or challenged, it opens the doors for more bans,” Long wrote. “It also sends the message that certain voices shouldn’t be heard.”

While some might be well intentioned or believe they are helping, the negative impacts of censorship and bans are abundantly clear to those who work in libraries. 

“Book banning only promotes ignorance and a monocultural life, which hurts everyone,” Long wrote. “There are so many wonderful people from different backgrounds and lives, and we all benefit from learning about other’s experiences and perspectives. To learn and grow as a person means you might experience some discomfort, but the world is better for it. To deny people’s voices is to live a stagnant life.”

Although censorship is incredibly harmful, there is still hope that things can get better in the future. The public has an amount of power that often is overlooked, yet in reality, it can be used as an effective tool for change. Many might believe that their help doesn’t make a difference or have an impact, but that is not the case. 

“Vote,” Long wrote. “Attend library board meetings. Be aware of issues facing many libraries here in Colorado and across the country. Read challenged books. Get involved with your local library by attending programs or volunteering. Attend school board meetings, and fight for kids’ rights. Be kind.”

Fort Collins’ Poudre libraries have three locations: Old Town Library, Harmony Library and Council Tree Library.

Reach Aubree Miller at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @CSUCollegian.

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