Celebrating Banned Books Week at Central Washington University, Freedom to Read Foundation Grant Winner

Banned Books Week

By: Lisa Rand

How might a university campus observe Banned Books Week? I spoke with Jessica Krill at Central Washington University, one of this year’s Freedom to Read Foundation Banned Books Week grant recipients. Our interview was conducted via email.

Tell me about your role and responsibilities at Central Washington University. If your Banned Books Week programming includes other staff, please also indicate those details. 

I am an Assistant Professor, Arts & Humanities Librarian here at CWU. Our Banned Books Week programming is a collaborative effort between myself, Maureen Rust (Associate Professor, Student Engagement & Community Outreach Librarian), Sabrina Juhl (Lecturer, First Year Instruction & Research Librarian), and Brenda Gardner (Coordinator of Library Resources). We’re working with a variety of CWU campus partners as well as community partners including CWU’s Diversity and Equity Center, CWU’s Equality through Queers and Allies student club, our local school and public libraries, and Highline Community College. I just started here at CWU back in April, so working on this grant and series of programming has been a wonderful way for me to get to know our campus and community partners. 

How has COVID-19 impacted campus life? Have you needed to adjust the ways you reach the community? 

I arrived amidst the COVID-19 pandemic in April, so I have only ever known CWU and life in Ellensburg during this strange time. At CWU Libraries we have shifted most of our services to online modalities, including our programming. There have been some challenges, but it has also opened new and unique opportunities. We will be having an author talk with Mason Deaver as part of our virtual programming for Banned Books Week. In non-pandemic times, an author talk would have been much more difficult to coordinate in person since we are a relatively remote community. 

Could you describe your award-winning program? 

A high proportion of recent book challenges cite sexuality, sexual behavior, and sexually explicit content as objectionable. In 2019 alone, 8 of 10 books on the ALA Ten Most Challenged Books of 2019 list were cited for their LGBTQIA+ content. Our programming will focus around books challenged for LGBTQIA+ issues as well as greater issues facing the LGBTQIA+ community. I will be moderating a panel discussion featuring our local Ellensburg school and public librarians and CWU students. We will also be hosting a book discussion around Mason Deaver’s I Wish You All the Best, a wonderful novel centered around the non-binary experience. We will also be hosting an author talk with Mason Deaver to close out our programming. 

What motivated or inspired your activity choices? 

When we looked at ALA’s Ten Most Challenged Books of 2019 and saw that 8 of the 10 most banned books were challenged for LGBTQIA+ themes, we knew that we should center LGBTQIA+ themes in our Banned Books Week programming. We have such a vibrant LGBTQIA+ community on campus, so I am excited to be working on this project to bring our campus community together with our other partners. 

As your preparations have unfolded, have there been any surprises? 

I actually missed the notification call for the grant due to COVID-19 confusion! We started planning our pared down version when we received confirmation that we got the grant and funds were on their way. We had to quickly shift gears, but we were excited to pursue our originally planned programming. 

Have you held BBW programs in the past? If so, what has been most enjoyable/successful? 

CWU Libraries celebrates Banned Books Week annually with a variety of programming. In addition to a large exhibit in our main floor display case, we also organize a “Freedom to Read” table at the downtown farmers market and interactive activities in our student union. Our Banned Books Week events never fail to draw campus and community members who were unaware books are still being challenged. It has also provided a fruitful collaboration opportunity with our public and school librarians.  

Lisa Rand

Lisa M. Rand is a youth services librarian in southeastern Pennsylvania. She exercises her commitment to equity and access for everyone by serving on the Intellectual Freedom Committee of the Pennsylvania Library Association. Lisa has studied at Simmons University and Kent State University. Whenever possible she travels, visiting libraries and walking in the footsteps of favorite fictional characters. Find her on Twitter @lisa_m_rand.

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