Mary and Jeff Bell Library asks Islanders to Question Literary Censorship During Banned Book Week

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – At first glance, the graffiti-adorned locker stuffed full of books stood in striking contrast to the rows of neatly stacked library resources. Sept. 23 kicked-off the Mary and Jeff Bell Library’s annual Banned Books Week where attendees learned about current publication restrictions that are in place and how it affects access to information.   

“Did you know, in 2017 more than 400 books were challenged for containing controversial topics,” said Patricia Hernandez, student success librarian at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. “In general, we librarians see ourselves as fighters for freedom of information and it is our job to show our patrons that censorship is still a modern-day occurrence.”  

As the primary organizer for Banned Books Week, Hernandez explained the evolving view of libraries, and the role they play in bringing social injustices to the forefront. She also discussed how censorship happens across several forms of media including books, articles, music, and movies.

“I think the word ‘banned’ automatically piques the interest, we have a fascination with the things we can’t have,” said Dr. Clarenda Phillips, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “I hope our students will continue educating themselves about censorship and how it affects our perception of reality. The act of reading and research are good habits that our students can then apply to their every day lives.” 

Throughout the exhibit, which was located on the first floor of the Bell Library, attendees were encouraged to learn through interaction, and had a chance to voice their feelings on censorship. Glass jars collected blue and green pebbles, from participants that voted if they would endure prison for their beloved novels. Attendees could also take a “mug-shot,” complete with a plaque listing their offense of reading banned books, at a photo booth. Nearby a whiteboard displayed Islanders’ handwritten ideas and opinions about censorship. Characters from banned texts roamed the library wearing “I’m banned” sashes and spoke to guests about the reason for their publication’s restrictions. Students from the Department of Theatre and Dance were cast as characters who highlighted the relevancy of the issue and demonstrated the long-established history of censorship. 

“As Ponyboy from The Outsiders, I represent the ideals of a bad role model; people who smoke, drink, and cuss,” said Diego Camero, freshman theater student. “I believe this story is about unyielding friendship that is something to be modeled. I think certain messages within these texts are important; no matter how they are presented.”

Banned Books week successfully allowed students and community members alike, to engage in an interactive learning experience. At the heart of the campus, and as a pillar of student life, it highlights the modernized voice and efforts of the Bell library and its staff.