Tag Archives: Library

Celebrate Your Freedom To Read

This week is the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week, a week each autumn where the ALA highlights the First Amendment, focuses on issues surrounding censorship of information, and celebrates our freedom to read.

It’s one of the best weeks of the year.

But this is the first year in a decade that I haven’t been in the classroom during Banned Books Week, and it’s weirding me out. I put BBW on my syllabus each Fall semester, and I design an activity for my students that is meant to inform and engage them. These are some of the flyers they created last year during an in-class group activity:


Click link below to see full flyer



Click link below to see full flyer



Click link below to see full flyer


And there are always some excellent activities at my college to celebrate BBW: panel discussions, lectures, and one year there was a mock demonstration where we marched around outside of the library with placards to “protest” censorship. Our librarians put together resources for faculty and students to bring awareness and celebrate reading, and they always do a terrific job.

The librarians made me a robot and asked me to compare Sherman (my reading robot) to the ALA's reading robot campaign.

A few years ago the librarians made me a robot and asked me to compare Sherman (my reading robot) to the ALA’s reading robot campaign.

And the freedom to read is a personal issue for me; and it’s not just because I’m an educator and a bibliophile. In 2008, just after I got hired on at MCC in a full-time, tenure track position, a student of mine objected so vehemently to a book I’d used in class that she, her mother, and their pastor tried to get the book banned. Not only did they want me to stop teaching it, but they also wanted the administrators to stop the book from ever being taught again at our college. They wanted to ban it from our classrooms and our library.

I found this shocking, and I was worried my administration might think I was too much of a trouble maker and renege their job offer. But that didn’t happen. Instead, my fantastic deans and the VP of academic and student affairs supported me at every turn, swatted the pastor away like the gadfly he was, and, of course, didn’t even consider banning the book.

The book they tried, unsuccessfully, to ban.

The book they tried, unsuccessfully, to ban.

This event opened my eyes to the uncomfortable truth that people still try to ban books. This is not a theoretical problem; this is not an old-fashioned problem. This is a problem, now. So we as educators, librarians, and champions of democracy must fight — with great big swings of our book-holding fists — every effort to stifle our freedom of expression in speech or in the press.


I got this tattoo after my personal book-banning incident. Is it saying something that this was the most painful one I’ve ever gotten?

This week I had to celebrate Banned Books Week in my own personal way, and of course I enlisted the help of my local public library.


I was so excited to see this that I took a terrible, blurry picture.

They’d wrapped up books in black paper to hide the titles and authors’ names, and then pasted the “reasons” given to challenge and/or ban that particular book. I looked over the selection and choose this one:


In my Adolescence and the Schools class this semester, we read an article about the ineffectiveness and problems of Abstinence Only Until Marriage sex education, so when I saw “sex education” on this book, my interest was piqued.

I brought my secret book home, unwrapped it, and was delighted when I saw that I’d gotten a book I haven’t read:


Although, really, I was just delighted that I got to unwrap a library book like it was a present. No, scratch that: the library book was a present.

And now I’m wearing one of my Banned Books Week t-shirts (yes, I have more than one), and I’m going to read my Sherman Alexie book this weekend and love all of the gambling and violence and offensive language that are within its pages.

So, my job for you all is to go out to your local library and get a book — any book! — and celebrate your freedom to read!



Sunday Media

Yesterday morning, Trevor and I woke up early (early for a Saturday) to watch the Manchester United v. Tottenham match that kicked off at 6:45 a.m. CST. It was the first game of the Premiere League 2015/2016 season, and we won (although the only goal was an Spurs own-goal [the first time an own goal has kicked off the season in many many many years] so we’re not tremendously proud, and, likely, neither is poor Kyle Walker).

Manchester United Soccer Ball

Not only did I wake up to watch this game — usually for a game that early, T. will come to tell me that it’s about to start, and I’ll mumble some nonsense like “I’ll be right down” into my pillow and then go back to sleep — but I stayed awake through the whole match, not taking my usual half-time nap (from which I usually don’t wake up until hours later).

This is what usually wakes me up.

This is what usually wakes me up.

And then the match was over; it was 8:45 a.m. on a Saturday morning and I was awake. (!!) Trevor, because he is a productive human person on the weekends, started his vacuuming routine, and I figured I’d try to do my part in the cleaning game. I scrubbed our two bathrooms and then showered up to be ready for the day. And it was still only 11 a.m. (!!!) I didn’t even know what to do with myself.

T. and I decided to have an early lunch and then do some wandering in downtown Crystal Lake to enjoy the rest of the morning. We stopped by CL’s used book store, Buy Local Books.

Yay! We Have Books

Some of fiction we looked through yesterday

Some of the fiction we looked through yesterday

Buy Local will take your books, not for cash, but for store credit. And they’ll take almost anything as long as it’s in good condition. I have an account there but haven’t brought in any books in a while, so I used my remaining $.66 in store credit along with an additional $.68 in cold, hard cash for this little gem:

The best $.68 I've spent in a while

The best $.68 I’ve spent in a while

I am thankful to be starting school in a week, because I’ve spent much too much time lately buying books. And the stacks are starting to pile up. Last week I was in Evanston to get my hair cut by the Amazing Audrey at Art + Science, and, of course, I stopped in at Market Fresh Books, where they sell books by the pound. Yes. By the pound. If the summer wasn’t winding down soon, I’d be in some real biblio-trouble.

From Market Fresh Books in Evanston, where they sell books by the pound.

This stack of nine books rang up to about $38, and that Ephron alone is worth that much!

The pile above includes a bound galley copy of Chuck Palahniuk’s Pygmy with the reviewer’s handwritten notes on the flyleaf; a first edition of Nora Ephron’s Heartburn (containing a recipe for the best bread pudding I’ve ever had); and a trade paperback of Larry Heinemann’s Paco’s Story.

You might remember that I recently purchased a mass market copy of this same Heinemann book during our trip to Stone Soup Books in Camden, ME. And if you’re Trevor, then you know that I also have a number of other copies of this same book, mostly first edition hard covers.

It's possible that there's a fourth copy in my office at school.

It’s possible that there’s a fourth copy in my office at school.

I have a compulsion to buy any copy of this book that I come across. Heinemann was a graduate school professor of mine, and although I had excellent professors for every class during my years at DePaul, Larry was my favorite. And Paco’s Story is a great book, so I want to own them all. My additional excuse for picking up the trade paperback at Market Fresh is that it’s a reading copy that I’d happily lend out to any of my students. So, it’s like a giveaway book, and those are good to have (that’s also why I grabbed the mass market The Color Purple; I frequently do book giveaways in my classroom during Banned Books Week [Celebrating the Freedom to Read!], and this is a perfect copy for that use).

And now it’s Sunday. Trevor and I have watched more Premiere League games, eaten a breakfast of disproportionately sized pancakes,

Pancake Breakfast

It’s like the big pancake has a smaller pancake hat on its head.

and we’re getting ready to dive into the pile of media we picked up from the library yesterday after we left the book store.

Library Haul

The Channing Tatum movie and Eraserhead are for me, as is the Scott Hawkins book (which I started but am having trouble getting into; though I heard good things about it, so I’ll keep going). At some point today, we’ll hunker down and watch some movies. And maybe take a nap. And then watch the season finale of True Detective while following the live Twitter feeds of people also watching it and reveling in its absurdly unclear dialogue and plot.

Because the carpets are vacuumed and the bathrooms are scrubbed, and the lawn is mowed (thank you for that, Trevor). So what else is a gloomy Sunday good for?


(except, maybe, macaroni and cheese. so, yes, we’ll probably eat some of that.)