Upon walking into the Hamilton Public Library, a series of books sits atop one of the shelves with the display titles ranging from The Outsiders and A Wrinkle in Time to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Captain Underpants. Despite the differences in genre and theme, all of these titles do share one commonality: they are all “banned books” that have been challenged at some point since their publication due to objections over their attributes, such as their content or theme. In recognition of this year’s Banned Books Week, the Hamilton Public Library hosted its annual Banned Books Readout on Thursday, October 2, which allowed members of the surrounding communities to share in the enjoyment of reading — whichever books they pleased.
The Banned Books Readout, which was put together by Hamilton Public Library’s Barb Coger, Chenengo Valley Peace Alliance, Chris Rossi and Colgate Manager of General Books and Events Kelly Thomas, allowed organization and community members of all ages to share passages from their favorite banned books. The participants who volunteered to read provided the event audience with selections that varied from the classic Lord of the Flies to the poetry of Shel Silverstein.
Coger, who was central to the planning of the event, reflected on the goal of the Banned Books Readout.
“[We hoped to] bring awareness to the public that we shouldn’t take our freedom to read for granted,” Coger said.
The Banned Books event, which has occurred annually at the Hamilton Public Library for the past several years, featured a great diversity of presenters, including those from the Colgate Bookstore and library as well as a local mother and daughter duo. Coger mentioned that each year many of the same titles crop up as selections to be presented, but he said that this only makes the reading more interesting.
“Everyone’s got their own viewpoint on the book being discussed,” Coger said.
For the avid book lover, the Banned Books Readout this past Thursday only provided more incentive to continue reading. First-year Michelle Krelko who attended the event found the reading to be both enjoyable and thought-provoking.
“I’ve always liked books,” Krelko said, “and I’ve read quite a few [banned books]. I don’t believe in censorship. I was trying to think what books I would ban and why but then I thought, it’s a free society and other people might want to read a book that I don’t.”
With banned books running the gamut from fantasy and children’s books to historical fiction, there are always undoubtedly those who took offense to certain titles. However, Krelko felt that this was no reason to prohibit future readers from perusing a challenged book’s pages.
“If you read any book with the right viewpoints and connotations, it’s just fiction — you can take whatever viewpoint you want from it. It can just be personal to you,” Krelko said. “Books make you think, whether you agree with them or not. That’s what they are there for.”
Thanks to the open minds of those like Krelko and the participants in the Hamilton Public Library’s reading, future generations will have the opportunity to follow Harry Potter’s Hogwarts education and the tribulations of Ralph and Piggy for years to come.