Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Banned Books Readout at UT-Tyler 2007

"All these people talk so eloquently about getting back to good old-fashioned values. Well, as an old poop I can remember back to when we had those old-fashioned values, and I say let's get back to the good old-fashioned First Amendment of the good old-fashioned Constitution of the United States -- and to hell with the censors! Give me knowledge or give me death!"
-- Kurt Vonnegut, author

We had our Banned Books Readout here on campus. The event, sponsored by the library, is held annually as part of the events for Banned Books Week. For me, this was my first activity on campus as the new Outreach Librarian. Fortunately, I had the able assistance of our webmaster who has also been serving as Outreach Coordinator (I am gradually taking over the outreach role from her. However, it is more like we'll be working together, and that is a good thing).

The event went from 10:30a to 2:30p, and it took place in the nice open terrace we have facing the lake. We had readers representing various departments on campus. Readers chose their own selections for reading in 15 minute segments. The concept was for the reader to introduce the work and then read their selection.

Our equipment for the event included:

  • Letter sign on sidewalk to advertise the event for people as they walked by.
  • A nice sign on an easel next to the podium. The graphics were drawn by one of our circulation periodicals assistants (I am still learning who does what here).
  • Most of the books that people chose were items checked out from the library. This is definitely something to encourage in the future if possible. However, any book is welcome.
  • We had buttons to hand out that said "I read Banned Books." I think we should continue making them and providing them.
  • We had flyers with the list of readers.
The selection of books read this time around:

Our readers all brought in their style and skill to the texts. The books listed include books we commonly associate with challenges, such as Daddy's Roommate, to works that we don't usually think of as being challenged, such as The Analects. The history professor who chose Confucius gave us a small lesson on the history of the book, explaining how the work was banned in its own country by a more legalistic regime. We were moved at times; we laughed at other times. The audience came and went as the morning gave way to the afternoon. Overall, the audience was small, but we had a good showing overall.

My director asked me to ponder what things we could improve for future readouts. Here are a some things I am pondering:

  • The location. This is an object of debate already, and I am not sure I have the answer. I was told that when it was done in the library, that some students felt like they may be called upon to read, or they did not want to approach in fear they were interrupting something. I think with a little gentle encouragement and welcoming, that could be overcome. The outside location we used this time is nice. It is an open space; it is outdoors, and there is good traffic. However, there are restrictions on using a microphone there during certain hours. So, I have mixed feelings. At the moment, I would say for us to continue holding the event outside, weather permitting.
  • We need to have some extra books handy. That way, if someone approaches wanting to read on the spot, we can hand him or her something. Since we did have a couple of breaks in the reading, allowing for such breaks to be open mike moments would be a good idea.
  • We probably need additional publicity and promotion for the event. Getting more students to read would be nice. That is one of the things I will be working on throughout this year and in my time here: publicity for the library. There is a campus electronic bulletin board. We can use that. We have a list of people who participate, so calling on them is good, but getting others in addition would be great as well.
By the way, we took pictures as well. I have placed a good number of them on my Flickr account. Here is the link to the set. I will probably be using a few of them for an article in our library newsletter later in the term. And certainly using photos is a possibility for when we implement a blog for the library, which is another thing I am considering.

"We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people."
-- John F. Kennedy. Remarks made on the 20th anniversary of the Voice of America at H.E.W. Auditorium, February 26, 1962

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