Amanda Delgado//Contributing Writer
Novels by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mark Twain and Harper Lee may dominate public school curricula, but what made them classics has also gotten them stricken from reading lists for decades.
The University will recognize its 16th Banned Books Week, which will celebrate and recognize the freedom to read, according to Gricel Dominguez.
The user engagement librarian at The Biscayne Bay Campus’ Glenn Hubert Library said that the week also highlights First Amendment rights to freedom of speech under the Constitution.
BBW started in 1982 in response to a surge of books being challenged in schools, bookstores, and libraries.
“Our standpoint is, it is not our job to make decisions about what people should or shouldn’t read. We provide material on all viewpoints …sharing a different or opposing idea is not done so with the outright intention of winning everybody over to one, single viewpoint, but it is to understand the complexities of a lot of situations that face us,” Anne Prestamo, the dean of university libraries, said to Student Media.
According to Prestamo, challenging books usually happens at the local level – someone goes into their public library and finds an objection to a particular book.
More frequently, within the school district, it generally originates with a parent at a single school with an objection with their child’s assigned reading material. Whether the material is continued to be use or not depends on a principal’s or school district’s decision.
Those who want to challenge a book found in a university library, however, probably won’t find much success.
“Within academia, not just as it relates to libraries and library materials, the concept or the principles of academic freedom are very, very strong,” said Prestamo. “If we want to fight for the tenants of free speech to be able to express viewpoints, then we need to sometimes be faced with needing to stand up for people’s right to express viewpoints we don’t agree with.”
Prestamo believes providing counterarguments is the better approach, rather than banning books. Some students have similar beliefs.
“I don’t think books should be able to be banned, but there could be benefits in banning incorrect [material,] like incorrect medical records,” said Kevin Arab, a junior and a psychology major. “More so than going against [a] book, we should have the freedom to choose whether or not to read it.”
Each year, The American Library Association shares the top banned books, which include “The Great Gatsby,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and the “Harry Potter” series.
Using that list, FIU’s libraries create “read-outs.”
“[The list of banned books] is based on reports from libraries and other institutions where members of the public have taken offense to a particular title,” said Dominguez. “The list is actually fairly extensive, so the libraries pick out a selection and put them on display for students to check out or read during the read-out. Anyone can read – students, faculty, staff. All are welcome to take part and stand up for free speech and the right to read.”
Students can participate in a “drop-in read-out” at The Hubert Library on Sept. 28, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The library encourages students to pick up one of the books from the display and read one of the passages.
“Selfie stations” will also be set up in both libraries, and both students and faculty can share a selfie with a banned book on social media with the hashtag, #BannedBooksFIU.
At the Modesto Maidique Campus, the Green Library will display banned books on the second floor by the circulation desk.
At The Biscayne Bay Campus, the Hubert Library is highlighting contemporary young adult and graphic novels, as well as classics, and will display books near the front desk.
“Libraries across the country host their own events, especially public libraries,” said Dominguez. “The DC Public Library is actually hosting a city-wide scavenger hunt to celebrate Banned Books, while ALA is hosting a virtual read-out. The variety is pretty endless.”