“Librarians are very passionate about Banned Books Week,” says Kari Mitchell of the D.C. Public Library. “It’s kind of the core of what librarianship is. So it wasn’t very hard for people to come up with their own programming and ideas.”
All next week, city libraries will host readings, discussions and displays of popular books that have been challenged in some way or another. This year’s theme, chosen by the American Library Association, “celebrates diversity of all types and all types of information.” It’s a theme that’s evident in the ALA’s list of the most challenged titles of 2015, which includes I Am Jazz by transgender youth Jazz Jennings, Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan, and the Holy Bible.
As chair of the Banned Books Week committee, Mitchell helped her fellow librarians think “outside the book” this year, with the launch of the series, Uncensored: Banned Books to Film. “We want to celebrate the freedom of information not just in printed words,” Mitchell says, “and reaching people through movies is one way that we can do that.” Among the films screening at various city libraries are Brokeback Mountain, Charlotte’s Web, Of Mice and Men, Where The Wild Things Are and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. None of those films or the books on which they’re based have been banned in D.C. Yet as someone who grew up in rural North Dakota, Mitchell is aware of how rare our local situation is.
“Everybody here just seems to be so accepting of information, whether they agree with it or not,” she says. “I think the D.C. public has thrived on that.” Residents can toast their open-mindedness at an Uncensored cocktail gala closing out Banned Books Week on Friday, Sept. 30, at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. For her part, Mitchell is looking forward to this year’s kickoff event, to be held at the central library on Monday, Sept. 26. Veteran emcee Rayceen Pendarvis will host “Rayceen’s Reading Room,” an evening celebrating diversity and featuring a diversity of performances, from comedy to dramatic readings and spoken word to interviews.
“I’m excited about how everything has come together,” Mitchell says. “There are just so many different ways we’ll be celebrating information and the freedom to it.”
For a list of all Uncensored: Banned Books Week activities throughout the DC Public Library, visit dclibrary.org/bannedbooks. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library is at 901 G St. NW. Call 202-727-0321 or visit dclibrary.org/mlk.
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