Indiana State University Newsroom

Students, faculty stand against censorship during Banned Books Week

October 2, 2009

Indiana State University student Jenalee Cooksey is against the idea of banning books.

"I think books open up a whole new world for people," said Cooksey, a senior liberal studies major from Lyons. "I don't think that should be taken away."

Cooksey was one of several Indiana State students who voiced their opinions about book banning as part of Banned Books Week, an annual event celebrating the freedom to read.

ISU President Daniel J. Bradley read aloud from "To Kill a Mockingbird," which has been challenged numerous times in its almost 50 years in circulation.

The book, published in 1960, was the only book Harper Lee wrote. It challenged what was happening in America and in the world.

"It was a very important piece in American history. It's hard to imagine today, in 2009 - almost 2010 - the impact of this novel in 1960," said Darlene Hantzis, professor of communication and women's studies and campus coordinator for the American Democracy Project.

More than one book a day faces removal from free and open public access in U.S. schools and libraries, according to the Office of Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association.

In 2008, 513 challenged books were reported; an increase from 420 books in 2007.

Students discussed who-if anyone-should be allowed to ban books.

"It should be up to the parent, but as we all know, not all parents take care of their child," Cooksey said. "You have to decide how much is too much. I think it's hypocritical to think it's okay to censor a movie but it's not okay to censor a book."

Taylor Schaffer, a junior public relations major from Terre Haute, had a slightly different take on book banning.

"The thing that really bothers me is that we spend so much time trying to censor books when that same amount of time and energy could be spent having a dialogue about what the book is about and the lessons that can be learned from it," Schaffer said.

On Wednesday, Cunningham Memorial Library staff members and librarians participated in Reader's Theatre, where they discussed challenged books and what critics and authors have said. Reader's Theatre focused on books such as "It's Perfectly Normal," "King and King," "Give a Boy a Gun," "Just Listen" and "Sandpiper."

Marsha Miller, reference and instruction librarian, said, "It's not a black and white issue that this book is good and this book is bad."

Aletha Carter, a 2002 ISU retiree and native of Terre Haute who attended, said, "The idea of banning a book is so hilarious to me and so shortsighted. To ban a book is to say I impose my sense of values on you and you're supposed to live how I want you to live."

She went on to say, "And yet, I remember going to visit a library and they had a copy of "Little Black Sambo" and I got very upset. Even at the time I realized I don't know where you draw the line. It's a very slippery line, the decision you have to make. That book was in the children's section. I had taken my granddaughter to the library-she was about 12 at the time-and of course there was this picture, this very offensive picture that led to some discussion."

Sarah Berg, a staff member in the library, considers some banned books among her favorites.

"‘Fallen Angels' is one of my favorite books and it's on the Banned Books list," Berg said. "My main thought is if you don't like it, don't read it. If you think it's offensive, don't read it."

Miller came up with the idea for Reader's Theatre after continually reading reports from the American Library Association's weekly newspaper about banned books.

"I wanted to personalize it. Most authors don't set out to write controversial books. They don't say, ‘I want my book banned,'" she said.

She even made sure the library has a copy of some of the books, including "And Tango Makes Three," which has been at the top of the Banned Books list for two years.

"We have a responsibility to the teachers of tomorrow to provide these books," Miller said.

Photos: - - Students listen as Indiana State University President Daniel J. Bradley reads from "To Kill a Mockingbird" at the Barnes & Noble ISU Bookstore (ISU/Kara Berchem) - Books that have been banned at one time or another were on display in Indiana State University's Cunningham Memorial Library during Banned Books Week. (ISU/Tony Campbell) - Steve Harden, associate librarian in Indiana State University's Cunningham Memorial Library, was among library faculty and staff taking part in a Reader's Theater program as part of Banned Books Week.

Writer: Lana Schrock, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3773 or