At Westerly Library & Wilcox Park: This week it’s all about the freedom to read | Guest columns


Libraries across the country have celebrated Banned Books Week since 1982, bringing attention to banned or challenged books each year, and celebrating our freedom to read. This is an especially important topic for those of us who work in libraries, as intellectual freedom is one of the core values ​​of our profession, but we are certainly not the only ones talking about it. No, last year banned books made more headlines than ever.

When one thinks of “banned books,” it’s not uncommon to visualize a scene straight out of Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” (coincidentally, a title that’s been disputed many times over the years), in which a totalitarian government sets fire to piles of books. The reality is a little more subtle than that, but no less dangerous. When we talk about banned and contested books, we are referring to items to which a person or a group has tried to restrict access, due to personal objections. The American Library Association began compiling lists of them in the early 2000s; in 2001 they recorded 448 challenges, most of them to materials in schools and public libraries. Twenty years later, in 2001, that number rose to 729, by far the highest.

Not only are the number of challenges increasing, but the types of books targeted are also changing. In the 1850s, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was banned in the South for “stirring heated debates about slavery”; in the 1920s, James Joyce’s “Ulysses” was banned on the grounds that it could cause readers to have “impure and lustful thoughts”; in the second half of the century, books with sexual content and “immoral” themes rebelled. Today, the majority of challenges went to books for and about LGBTQ+ people and people of color, including Maia Kobabe’s “Gender Queer,” Jonathan Evison’s “Lawn Boy,” and “All Boys Aren’t Blue.” by George M. Johnson. You can access all of this at the library, by the way.

One of the fundamental purposes of books is to educate and inform. People turn to books to learn, to see themselves or someone like them in print, or to broaden their horizons. Proponents of censorship – especially recent headlines – often claim to protect children and young people by protecting them from “inappropriate material”, regardless of the harm they cause to young people who need to see themselves in books, or who are looking for information. Also, the lesson they teach is that we should avoid the things that make us feel uncomfortable. Libraries, on the other hand, believe in the freedom to read. We believe in fair access to materials. We believe in providing information from all points of view, without restriction. And we continue to oppose censorship. We hope you’ll join us this Banned Books Week, discover something new (or old!), and read whatever your heart desires.

Most requested books

  • 1. “The Nantucket Hotel” by Elin Hilderbrand
  • 2. “Verity” by Colleen Hoover
  • 3. “It’s Ending With Us” by Colleen Hoover
  • 4. “The It Girl” by Ruth Ware
  • 5. “Chemistry Lessons” by Bonnie Garmus
  • 6. “I’m Glad My Mom Is Dead” by Jennette McCurdy
  • 7. “Man 6:20” by David Baldacci
  • 8. “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • 9. “The House Across the Lake” by Riley Sager
  • 10. “Carrie Soto is Back” by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Most requested DVDs

  • 1. “Elvis”
  • 2. “Top Gun: Maverick”
  • 3. “Where the Crawdads Sing”
  • 4. “Minions: The Rise of Gru”
  • 5. “Jurassic World: Dominion”
  • 6. “Highway to Heaven”
  • 7. “Downton Abbey: A New Era”
  • 8. “Thor: Love and Thunder”
  • 9. “Last Seen Alive”
  • 10. “Mrs. Harris goes to Paris”

This week

MONDAY — 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Crafternoon To-Go | Book Page Jewelry – We’re celebrating Forbidden Books Week by making literary rings. SKU kits available while supplies last; 10:30-11:30 p.m., Zumba in the Park – A free Zumba class at Wilcox Park; 4-5pm, Word Nerds – Teens in grades 7-12 can join us for book talks and writing exercises.

TUESDAY — 10am-2pm, National Voter Registration Day – Stop by our table in the park or inside the library to pick up voter registration forms; 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., Community Resource Advocate – Our volunteer Community Resource Advocate is available by email to help connect you with local services/resources. Contact her at [email protected]; 4-5:30 p.m., Weekly Summer Dungeons & Dragons – A teen-led Dungeons & Dragons campaign! Registration is mandatory; 5:30 to 6 p.m., Family craft evening | Harvest Moon – Help us celebrate this year’s Harvest Moon with a foil and paint craft! Registration required; 5:30-7:30 p.m., Club Tricot et Crochet – The group meets on the 2nd floor of the library.

WEDNESDAY — 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., family story time in the fall – A family story time, intended for children from birth to 11 years old when accompanied by a caregiver; 2-3pm, Cine Club – We’ll meet in person OR on Zoom to discuss the 3 movies we picked last month. Please email Debbie [email protected] for details; 2-3 p.m., Put Your Garden to Rest with Master Gardener Noreen Kepple – Time to prepare your garden for the cooler weather. This program takes place in the Auditorium, or you can attend virtually via Zoom. Contact [email protected] for more information; 2-3:30 p.m., Virtual Tech Social – We meet on Zoom to answer your technical questions. Prior registration is required; 5-6pm, Pride Club – Meet other LGBTQIA2+ teens and allies while enjoying snacks, playing games and hanging out! Pride Club is for all students in grades 7-12; 5:30-7:00 p.m., Westerly Library and Wilcox Park Annual Meeting – held in the auditorium.

THURSDAY — 5-7pm, Teen Crafternoon Thursdays – Join us for weekly craft activities and snacks; 5:30-6:30 p.m., Zumba in the Park – A free Zumba class at Wilcox Park; 5:30-7:30 p.m., Chess Club Tournament – Tonight the Chess Club is hosting a free chess tournament for all levels. The tournament will take place in the Terrace room on the third floor of the library. For more information or questions, please contact Daniel at [email protected]

FRIDAY — 9am-10am, Yoga in the Park with Michael Dotolo – Join us at the back of the pond.

SATURDAY — 9am-12pm, URI Master Gardener Kiosk – Get research-based answers to all your gardening questions; 10am-11.30am, walking tour of Wilcox Park | Specimen Trees – This tour features some of the master gardeners’ favorite trees in the park; 10:30-11:30 a.m., Zumba in the Park – A free Zumba class at Wilcox Park; 1:30-2:30 p.m., Superhero Day – Create your superhero identity! Supplies are provided, but are first come, first served. This program is intended for 4-8 year olds.

Cassie Skobrak is the Adult Services Librarian at Westerly Library & Wilcox Park.


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