Wallingford Public Library marks Banned Books Week

WALLINGFORD — Janis Small, the town’s corporation counsel, was at an antique store in the Westville section of New Haven when she found a 20-inch by 20-inch panel titled, “Man’s Right to Knowledge and the Free Use Thereof.”

Small, who collects vintage postcards and has an interest in mid-20th century historical themes, then purchased eight panels that were at the store and found out that they were part of 60 panels created for Columbia University’s Bicentennial in 1954. The panels promoted the idea of commitment to intellectual freedom.

“They invited institutions and universities around the world to participate in any way they saw fit and at some point in time libraries decided they wanted to be a part of it,” Small said. “These panels were created to tour libraries across the country.”

These eight panels are now on display at the Wallingford Public Library for the rest of the month to support Banned Books Week, which started Monday and ends today.

Small suggested to Jane Fisher, library director, that along with the panels, they should do something more because book bans have increased in 2022. 

AP News reported on Friday that the American Library Association has documented 681 challenges to books through the first eight months of 2022. In all of 2021, there were 729 challenges. 

“It’s not just the typical Banned Books Week, (libraries) are actually under siege and we thought we would do something more,” Small said. “The panels are on display. We have on display several of the banned books with very brief explanations to what the basis of banning them is and then we give some examples of communities around the country that are really attacking libraries.” 

Leah Farrell, the library’s head of adult programming and community service, said a lot of the books displayed are classics, such as “Lord of the Flies,” “Catch-22” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.” 

“Near the display, we have a little exhibit,” Farrell said. “It’s basically a game – you read why something was challenged and you have to guess what the book is and then you can flip it up and see what the book is. We really want to engage people on this.” 

Today, there is a reception from 1 to 3 p.m,. to honor Banned Books Week that will include light refreshments and some remarks regarding banned books.

While book challenges have been on the rise, Fisher said the Wallingford Public Library has not received any formal challenges this year. 

“We do have a policy and a procedure in place if people do have comments about materials in the collection,” Fisher said. “We always are welcome to hear from our community. We’ve been fortunate not to have any challenges. We haven’t had any official challenges, anybody who’s completed our formal request for us to take a look at something that’s in the collection.” 

Fisher said that through this exhibit, she hopes the community will learn how the library is helping to make sure materials are accessible to everyone.

“Censoring or book banning is something that is counterproductive in a free and democratic society,” Fisher said. 

jsimms@record-journal.com203-317-2279Twitter: @jessica_simms99


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