The first year of my employment at the community college level, I was tasked with leading Banned Books Week as the Student Equity & Outreach librarian at Mt. San Antonio College Library. Going into the planning was somewhat intimidating since I had only heard of Banned Books Week as a public library community member. Really, I never thought that one day I would be leading these events. I am sure many other librarians find themselves in similar situations. And to be honest I think public libraries do Banned Books Week best. Today, I find myself highly involved, motivated and wanting to share topics of intellectual freedom at the college campus and beyond. Sorry public libraries, college libraries are catching up!
To date, for the last two years at Mt. SAC, librarians have worked collaboratively with academic departments on campus and student service programs to provide a range of participatory events and activities to the college. Some of my more memorable interactions with the campus, especially students and faculty, have revolved around the themes Banned Books Week brings to the surface and highlights in real life situations for discourse. For instance, during my outreach conversations and reference interviews, most are shocked or have a great interest in learning more about the censorship and the banning of intellectual thought.
Since our first Banned Books Week event, much has been learned about what works and what does not for community college students. If you are thinking about holding events or having interactive displays at your college library, here are a couple of ideas to rally the creative in you!
Pick and choose what works
Hosting panels is one the more logistically challenging methods, but highly successful if you partner with academic departments or programs/services on campus.
Our first panel was titled “The New Censorship in America.” The panel included a variety of stakeholders including a local county librarian, a librarian/lawyer, and two local authors.
Partner with other faculty to share their expertise in areas related to topics highlighted during Banned Books Week.
One year, a faculty presented the history of censorship in the United States. This single event brought students and disciplines all over campus to gather. One of the faculty comments stated, “This was great! [The lecture] allowed my students to experience the library for the first time.”
Partnering with clubs
Working with student clubs provides direct feedback about what students want and value in higher education settings.
This upcoming Banned Books Week I will be working a student club on campus to create themes exhibits in our library. Exhibits will be curated by students in the club to highlight Native American culture.
Make a game
As we know from the library gaming literature, gaming can be an alternative way to pique student interest, collaboration, and learning. Why not create a game?
One year, I got a little too creative. I got the idea to create a board game for students to explore censorship and intellectual freedom. The “Banned Books Journey” board game is the product of my hyper creative mind and intense dedication to getting students to explore issues of banned books, censorship, and intellectual freedom. I even put it our during finals week with the other games and puzzles.
Topical, interactive stations can be explored by groups or individuals. Stations do require some maintenance and thought. They can be highly useful to get feedback and student comments to be used for future planning. To those who value alternative ways to engage, this option is always a possibility.
My colleague and I created four themed-interactive stations on the diverse books theme for Banned Books Week. We divided the stations into topics: banned children’s books, classics, young adult, and diverse.
Probably one of the most obvious is the book display. Yet, displays are a productive opportunity for collection development.
During the pre-planning phases of Banned Books Week, librarian faculty were able to partner with English faculty and help design assignments. Librarians learned what banned books students were interested in reading for their course assignments and for personal interest.
Eva Rios-Alvarado is your glocal librarian. Her empowerment, spirituality, and beautiful-resistance stem from Xicana Feminist practice and philosophy. Currently, she leads projects in equity and outreach as Student Equity & Outreach Librarian at Mt. San Antonio College Library. With a B.A. in Geography and MS, in Library Information Science, she serves community college students exploring and crafting their information literacy repertoires. Eva’s leadership, through Banned Books Week, allows students and faculty to explore, participate, and interpret topics in intellectual freedom, freedom of speech, and censorship. Find her on Twitter @EvaRiosAlvarado. #XicanMLIS #LAallDay #librarianOfColor #locLA