“Words Have Power: Read a Banned Book” was this year’s slogan for the 35th anniversary of the national
movement of Banned Books Week.
The Toledo community celebrated a full day of activities centered around the freedom of ideas and opinions in Carlson Library. The event took place on Sept. 28 and included a wide variety of guest speakers, snacks and door prizes.
Professor of communication Paulette Kilmer said that this day is very important for students for a variety of reasons.
“The point of it is to get us to think about censorship and the joy of reading,” Kilmer said. “So really, Banned Books Week is a warning, because someone is always willing to tell us what to do and what to read, and would love it if he or she could just pull books out of the library and make sure that nobody ever saw them.”
Kilmer, who is also a member of the Banned Books Coalition, said without books, one cannot make an informed decision, which is a critical skill in today’s world.
The coalition meets several times a week to discuss the importance of having access to books and to ensure they’re prepared for Banned Books Week.
“The issues of freedom of expression, the human right to read and think independently,” Kilmer said. “We want to make sure that we do all we can to pass the word and to show people why it matters.”
Professor of Humanities and another member of the coalition, Glenn Sheldon, is also a supporter of Banned Books. As an advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights, he said he found role models in certain books.
“We are about promotion of free speech, not just defending the so-called banned books focus,” Sheldon said. “Now, each committee member may have an opinion on where we draw the line on hate speech, but those are healthy debates. I serve on this coalition because of the passion, the focus and the broad intellectual inquiries that my colleagues bring to the table.”
The coalition was pleased with the outcome of having 335 students sign the register this year; however, the register may not have accounted for everyone, since not everyone who participated signed, Kilmer said. She is looking forward to an even better event next year.
“Breathing is natural, and so is reading,” Kilmer said. “We take them for granted until something happens and we can’t breathe or we can’t read.”