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Public library's 'Right to Read' campaign brings attention to book bans

A panel presented by the UNC Commission on History, Race and A Way Forward will be featuring the book From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century. The event, which will consist of a reading followed by a discussion, will take place at the Chapel Hill Public Library, as pictured on Wednesday, March 29, 2023.

The Right to Read campaign, which began on Sept. 26, is a month-long event hosted by the Chapel Hill Public Library. According to its website, the event — which includes a postcard-writing campaign — was planned by the library staff to advocate for intellectual freedom.

The website also says the Right to Read campaign hopes to bring attention to the subjects in the banned books by writing to local lawmakers and school board members, urging them against book bans. 

The library has hosted Banned Books Week before, where community members could submit art based on banned books, Hannah Olson, the library’s marketing and communications coordinator, said.

After eight years of art submission, library staff are taking a more active approach to intellectual freedom, she said.

“This year, we felt with the really staggering rise in book bans and especially with the book bans targeting books about race or about gender identity, we felt like we should do something more active, so we began the idea of a postcard-writing campaign,” Olson said.

Susan Brown, the director of the library, said she helped the staff organize the Right to Read campaign and encouraged community members to write postcards to politicians, library staff members, authors of banned books and readers.

“I am not going to tell you what to think on this issue, but we are going to educate you on what’s happening and encourage you to share your thoughts with folks,” Brown said.

The library held a panel discussion on Sunday about intellectual freedom and the dangers of censorship where panel members discussed banning books about gender, sex and physical autonomy for people below the age of 18 as well as books teaching children about a variety of interpersonal relationships.

“I think even if there is something that you happen to be personally against in one of these books, that’s no reason to take the access away from somebody else,” Olson said.

Renee Sekel, the deputy NC program director of Red Wine and Blue — a non-profit for suburban women — said as a parent, it is her role to regulate what books her children read. She said restricting access to books takes the opportunity away from other children whose parents do not object to those books.

“It would be incredibly presumptuous and wrong of me to go to my next-door neighbor and tell them how to parent their own child," Sekel said. "And what these book bans do is really that on an administrative level.”

She said that intellectual freedom is crucial in a democratic society because it is how new ideas emerge. Sekel also said that failing to question perspectives or ideas makes it difficult for the individual and their surrounding community to grow.

“Whenever I see somebody who is saying no to certain ideas, you cannot use certain ideas — that is someone who is super, really insecure," Sekel said. "They don’t believe their ideas can stand testing."

Brown said while she is not pleased with the rise in book bans, she is proud of her colleagues across the state and the country who are fighting against them.

@DTHCityState |

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