NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The theme of this year’s Banned Books Week, taking place from Oct. 1 to 7, is “Let Freedom Read!” The event started in 1982 in response to public pressure to ban certain books from libraries, which experts say are on the rise once again.
Top librarians and Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz (D-CT) gathered at the New Haven Free Public Library Tuesday to draw attention to censorship efforts.
“When libraries are asked to censor books, the message we’re sending is that your viewpoint doesn’t matter, or that you should be ashamed, or that we are excluding certain individuals or ideas from the library,” explained Maria Bernhey, director of the New Haven Free Public Library.
That is the opposite of the mission of public libraries.
“It’s about inclusion, it’s about diversity, and it is our role not to decide what you read, but to give you that choice,” said Dawn La Valle with the state Division of Library Development. “It is your freedom of choice.”
The American Library Association (ALA) compiled a list of states where someone has tried to ban more than 100 titles. There were 11 states, and yes, Connecticut made the list. The ALA found banning attempts are rising all over the U.S. and Connecticut.
One group in Old Lyme tried to ban two adolescent sex education books from a library there. The library board decided to keep the books on the shelves.
Newtown’s Board of Education considered banning two books, one with sexual themes, and another, “Flamer,” has a character who identifies as gay. Two Republican board members resigned before the remaining members unanimously voted to keep the books in the library, but the effort shows a common bias.
“Many of the books that have been requested to be taken off the shelves are books like these that have LGBTQ+ themes,” Bysiewicz said.
Many members of the LGBTQ+ community grew up not finding any books about them in the library. Now, that is changing.
“And I think that’s what I admire about the work of librarians right now, in this moment, in our state, and in our country, is that they’re maintaining this liberty for us,” state Rep. Dominique Johnson (D-Norwalk) said.
Representativeohnson is part of that community and says, if someone does not like those books, they can just leave them on the shelves.