This week is Banned Book Week, and both Lowry’s Books and More and the Three Rivers Public Library (TRPL) are recognizing its significance. Banned Books Week serves to bring attention to the cause of fighting censorship. As has been its tradition for its 27 years of existence, Lowry’s is installing displays to recognize the annual observance, and the library is presenting material on its Facebook page.
The cause is vitally important to Lowry’s owner and Three Rivers Mayor Tom Lowry. “A lot of people aren’t aware that there are still people trying to hide books from people,” Lowry said. “Whether it’s for young children or adults, there are people who are trying to censor in America, and this is a way of creating an awareness about that. I think it’s really important, I think, that adults should be allowed to decide for themselves, whether it’s their body or their minds. I don’t think we should have censorship.”
Lowry said the American Library Association (ALA) maintains a running list of books that have been banned around the world by various groups for various reasons. “The American Booksellers has a list that follows that, and there are other groups that monitor it,” he said. “The ALA is a great resource for people.”
To come up with displays, Lowry says, “I depend on my employees, some of them are really creative. Often, we’ve used police tape, or the idea of hiding the books from people, so those are the two most common themes we’ve had. That’s a window display, and then we’ll have something in the store so it’s easier to grab the books” that have copies available for sale.
For banned titles to include in the displays, Lowry said, “well, we always throw in Huck Finn, we always throw in The Color Purple, the Bible, the Qur’an, the Constitution. “Are you there, God, It’s Me” often has been attempted to be banned. Anything with LGBT is on that list. Always.” There will also be titles such as “Black Like Me” in recognition of recent national issues of racial justice. “I mean, all kinds of people want to censor, so it’s not unique to any one group or person,” Lowry said.
Because TRPL is presently only open for drive-through, curbside lending services due to the ongoing pandemic, staff there said there is no banned books display there this year. “We usually do a banned book display, but patrons are not coming inside just yet, so we have converted that to Facebook posts! Our first one went up (Monday) night,” Acting TRPL Director Bobbi Schoon said.
“Banned Books Week is an important part of what we do at the library because one of our goals is to get all kinds of information to our community,” Schoon said. “Everyone has the right to read and acquire knowledge about anything. We strive to offer the community a diverse collection that reinforces that right!”
TRPL staff have been busy with the move into the library’s new building, setting up, operating the curbside service, and preparing for fall programs and further reopening in October.
The displays at Lowry’s will be up sometime Tuesday afternoon. “We’ll leave it up for a couple weeks, even though it’s technically only a week long,” Lowry said.
Dave Vago is a writer and columnist for Watershed Voice. A Philadelphia native with roots in Three Rivers, Vago is a planning consultant to history and community development organizations and is the former Executive Director of the Three Rivers DDA/Main Street program.