ALBANY – Albany Public Library is hosting Banned Books Week through Oct. 7 to celebrate the freedom to read and place a spotlight on books that are considered unorthodox and unpopular, and threatened to be censored in libraries and schools.
“One of the best things you can do is read banned books, check them out from your local library and support local booksellers. The more we read, the more we show our support to the authors and the more we can share the stories,” said local free speech advocate Joanna Peterson-Palladino-Resnick.
Banned Books Week started Oct.1 and will continue through Oct. 7. The Washington Avenue branch, along with The New York Civil Liberties Union Capital Region Office, League of Women Voters of Albany County, and Mothers Out Front marked the occasion with a reading of selected banned books Tuesday, Oct. 3.
Area participants who took part in this year’s event include Annine Everson, Kathleen Carey, Gary Hoffman, Melissa Putterman Hoffmann, Jennifer Lyfseck, Michael McDermott, Josephine O’Connor, Tony Pallone, Bob Resnick, Brian Sheldon, Dan Wilcox and James Yeara.
They read excerpts from “Catch-22,” “1984,” “The Diary of Anne Frank,” “A Court of Mist and Fury,” “Fun Home,” “Captain Underpants,” among many others. Those books have previously been targeted for removal and restriction in libraries and schools, according to Peterson-Palladino-Resnick.
“We are lucky to have a group of passionate advocates for free speech and intellectual freedom in our community,” she said.
Albany Public Library and NYCLU have held a Banned Books Week event for many years. This is the first year that The League of Women Voters of Albany County and Mother’s Out Front are participating and co-sponsoring. Through their work to educate others about voting rights and protecting individual rights, the Albany County chapter of the LWV aims to prevent book banning.
Banned Books Week, which launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in libraries, bookstores and schools, continues to draw national attention to the harmful effects of censorship.
“Our community’s libraries are vibrant, inclusive spaces for all students, where they should feel free to learn history, build their knowledge, and access narratives about diverse experiences,” Melanie Trimble, Regional Director of the Capital Region for the New York Civil Liberties Union said. “Albany Public Library’s Banned Books Week shines a light on the harms of unchecked censorship and reminds us why we must protect students’ rights to safely read, learn and grow.”
Across the country, books and other written materials are being banned and challenged in an attempt to remove or restrict the materials based on an individual or group’s objections. If the book or written piece is banned, it will be removed permanently from a library’s collection and no one can access it, Peterson-Palladino-Resnick added.
APL and NYCLU both acknowledge the possibility of preventing books from being banned with the support of local organizations and additional community members who stand up and advocate for the freedom to read.
Readers can also challenge the attempts to ban the proposed censored books and go on to the American Library Association’s website to view its resources.
The best solution to prevent the censorship of books and other media?
“Speak out. Use social media to be an advocate, start a banned books club or step up and become a library trustee,” Peterson-Palladino-Resnick said. “And of course, attend Banned Books Readout events!”
This story appeared on page 17 of the October 4, 2023 print edition of the Spotlight