Curtis Memorial Library hosted its first “Read-out” last week in honor of national Banned Books Week, recognized by libraries across the country since 1982.

Gary Lawless, a poet and owner of Gulf of Maine Books, reads from “Howl” by Alan Ginsberg at the library event. Contributed / Curtis Memorial Library

The library celebrated Banned Books Week Sept. 18 -24 with a banned book giveaway, a lobby display of information from the American Library Association, displays of frequently banned books and the Read-out  outside the entryway during which community members gave five-minute readings from the banned book of their choice.

“This year we wanted to do something a little louder and include community members in an event where we can exercise the freedom to read,” said Wynter Giddings, the primary organizer and president of the Maine Library Association.

Twenty-four community members signed up for the Read-out, representing a wide array of ages.

Giddings emphasized that by fighting censorship, the library is not advocating for any particular issue, but rather, “trying to put information out there for people to access and read and make up their own minds.”

One of several Banned Books Week displays at Curtis featured frequently banned books, including “Harry Potter,” “Stamped,” and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” Contributed / Wynter Giddings

“Everyone has the right to make decisions about what they want their kids to read or not read, but we don’t want people to infringe on others’ freedom to read,” she said.

This desire to call more attention to intellectual freedom came in response to the unprecedented number of attempts to ban books in the past year, with 729 challenges to library, school and university materials in 2021. The library association found that most target books were by or about Black or LGBTQ+ persons.

Banned Books Week was first launched in response to the surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. It was created to highlight the value of free and open access to information and to draw attention to the harms of censorship.

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