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During the first week of October, readers across the country celebrated Banned Books Week, and Chapel Hill was no exception. 

Librarians and booksellers throughout the town fully embraced the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week theme for this year, “Let Freedom Read,” which emphasizes how book bans stop readers from experiencing new perspectives in literature. 

On UNC’s campus, the Information and Library Science Student Association hosted a banned book reading on Oct. 4, where students read banned books aloud on the front steps of Manning Hall.

UNC Libraries also hosted a button-making event outside Davis Library on Oct. 6 where students could make buttons that featured the covers of frequently challenged books.

“We’re hoping that events like this will kind of just raise awareness about celebrating the freedom to read,” Karina Soni, the outreach projects librarian at UNC Libraries, said.

The Banned Books Week celebration extended beyond UNC’s campus. 

On Oct. 1, the Chapel Hill Public Library hosted an Intellectual Freedom Panel Discussion as part of its Right to Read campaign. The panel, which included government officials and librarians from across North Carolina, discussed censorship and intellectual freedom.

Through the month of October, the library is also showcasing the top 13 most challenged books of 2022 and statistics on book censorship in United States.

The exhibit specifically highlights the rise in reported book challenges last year, which increased from 1,858 books in 2021 to 2,571 books in 2022, according to the American Library Association.

This exhibit also includes a postcard-writing station where community members can write to lawmakers, library board members and other officials regarding book bans.

Hannah Olson, the marketing and communications coordinator for the Chapel Hill Public Library, said this new postcard campaign was inspired by the library's desire to create a larger impact. 

“We felt like this year, with the really shocking increase in book bans, that we should do something a little bit more active,” she said. “So, this came out of library staff wanting to do something that we could hopefully measure some change or impact.”

Olson also noted that the postcards have been written by people of varying ages, to everyone from librarians to government officials. 

She said the library aims to promote banned books that are not talked about as much. The library staff has even put together a list of books that have been banned or challenged within North Carolina, which include titles such as "Dear Martin" and "Lawn Boy."

Flyleaf Books, an independent bookstore in Chapel Hill, also embodied the spirit of Banned Books Week through its diverse inventory. 

“We don’t have any special displays, because our feeling is that Banned Books Week is every week for us,” Jamie Fiocco, co-owner and general manager of Flyleaf, said. “We have historically ordered up on books that are not available to kids in schools — I don’t think it has happened locally too much, but in general, we have made sure that we have books that are banned available in our store.”

Flyleaf has previously worked with libraries in other regions of North Carolina to ensure that local bookstores have access to banned books, Fiocco said. The store is also part of the American Booksellers Association, which has allowed them to support other bookstores across the nation as they deal with book bans.

Beyond Banned Books Week, Fiocco said Flyleaf's mission is to make all types of books available to everyone, particularly people from underrepresented groups.

The store hosts a diverse range of speakers to push readers to consider new viewpoints, she said.

“We’re just doing what we’ve always done, we’re just doing more of it,” Fiocco said. “I know that’s kind of a put-on saying, but we’ve always been purposeful about who we’ve invited into the store and the books we put on the shelves, but we’re doing it even more carefully to make sure that we’re not denying anyone information.”

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@dthlifestyle | lifestyle@dailytarheel.com