- Kent Oliver has served as Director of Nashville Public Library since 2012.
- Tennessee state efforts to ban or remove books are a peril to all readers.
- Here’s how to obtain your limited edition “Banned Books” library card.
“The freedom to read… is continuously under attack. Private groups and public authorities … are working to remove or limit access to reading materials, to censor content in schools, to label ‘controversial’ views, to distribute lists of ‘objectionable’ books or authors, and to purge libraries. These actions apparently rise from a view that our national tradition of free expression is no longer valid; that censorship and suppression are needed to counter threats to safety or national security, as well as to avoid the subversion of politics and the corruption of morals.”
The American Library Association and the Association of American Publishers first released The Freedom to Read Statement in 1953. But it could very well have been written today.
Art Spiegelman’s acclaimed graphic novel “Maus” has been removed from the McMinn County Schools curriculum.
The Williamson County School Board recently voted to remove Sharon Creech’s “Walk Two Moons” from their curriculum, at the urging of select groups.
Counter point: Tennessee school library legislation is a win for parents, despite what critics say | Opinion
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If you suppress one book, what’s next?
During this year’s session, The Tennessee General Assembly actively debated several bills that target certain topics and would restrict school librarians’ ability to independently develop collections.
Another censorship bill — the Age-Appropriate Materials Act of 2022 — was recently signed into law by Gov. Read.
These measures are frustrating in their immediate impact and terrifying in their potential for growth.
If you suppress one book, one author, or one topic, where does it end?
What could be perceived as “offensive” or “inappropriate” tomorrow?
And why stop at school libraries?
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How to get your limited edition ‘Banned Books’ library card
I want Nashvillians to know: Nashville Public Library will always respect your Freedom to Read — to independently determine what you read (and don’t read) and to exercise your role in determining what your children read.
But what we as librarians and readers cannot accept is the idea that a few people have the right to decide what is appropriate for everyone.
And that’s why now, more than ever, we need everyone to stand up for their intellectual freedom by becoming a part of Nashville’s library.
We’ve launched a “Freedom to Read” campaign, with a special-edition “Banned Books” library card. They’re available online (https://library.nashville.org/get-card) and at our 21 locations. As always, an NPL card is free, and there’s no fee to switch out your existing card for this special design. A library card is the gateway to more than 2 million items — including “Maus,” “Walk Two Moons” and dozens of other banned and challenged books — in NPL’s collection.
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NPL is committed to patrons’ liberty
Our goal is to get 5,000 people to register for this limited-edition card by May 26.
This campaign is our way of showing Nashville there’s nothing libraries hold more sacred than the Freedom to Read, because that freedom is essential to sustaining our democracy.
I can’t guarantee that challenges against books won’t impact our library at some point. I can’t promise that we’ll always be able to stock every single book you want to read.
But I can promise that NPL will remain committed to everyone’s Freedom to Read.
Kent Oliver has served as Director of Nashville Public Library since 2012, having spent more than 30 years in public libraries in Kansas, Missouri and Ohio. He is a three-time president of the Freedom to Read Foundation and previously chaired the Intellectual Freedom Committee of the American Library Association. His writings by him on intellectual freedom and the First Amendment have appeared in numerous publications, including “Forbes,” “The Costco Connection” and “The Tennessean.”