The Banned Book Club: Taking a Stand Against Book Bans

Monday, May 13, 2024
Online Event, Featuring  Dr. Torsten Reimer, Dean of the University of Chicago Library, and Laura Sill, Head of Acquisitions, at the University of Chicago, Illinois.
Writing on the Wall are honoured to welcome Dr. Torsten Reimer, University Librarian and Dean of the University Library, and Laura Sill, Head of Acquisitions, at the University of Chicago to WoWFEST to share the University of Chicago Library’s Banned Books Initiative with our audience.  They will discuss the impact of book bans on their communities and consider the potential future ramifications for the UK.

In October 2023, following the American Library Association’s announcement that censorship attempts at libraries were on pace to set a record for the third year in a row, the University of Chicago Library joined forces with the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) to expand access to banned books. This initiative acts on the University’s understanding that learning and creating knowledge require the freedom to explore and to discuss and share views and ideas.  

The DPLA launched The Banned Book Club in July 2023 to ensure that every reader in communities where books have been banned can access eBook versions of banned titles for free via the Palace app. 

In the UK we have watched with astonishment and dismay the growing movement across the US to ban books. The American Library Association ntoes that ‘pressure groups in 2023 focused on public libraries in addition to targeting school libraries. The number of titles targeted for censorship at public libraries increased by 92% over the previous year, accounting for about 46% of all book challenges in 2023; school libraries saw an 11% increase over 2022 numbers.’ The American Library Association report makes the point that ‘Books written by or about people of color or members of the LGBTQIA+ community made up the vast majority of such challenges.’

Although the banning of books is not currently happening in the UK, We chose ‘Fahrenheit 2024’ for our festival theme, based on the title of Raymond Bradbury’s novel, Fahrenheit 451, where firemen in a near future society start fires and burn books, to highlight growing moves in the UK towards censorship and a curtailing of rights. We feel this makes Bradbury’s novel even more relevant and precipitous today than it did when it was first published in the 1950s.

The climate in America often foreshadows that of the UK. This event will act as both a timely warning, and a celebration of those communities, spearheaded by campaigns like that of the University of Chicago and the University of Chicago Library, who have chosen to draw awareness to the situation by increasing support for research and inquiry on the topic of censorship and book banning, and to increase access to the books being denied to citizens across our country. 

Dr. Torsten Reimer is University Librarian and Dean of the University Library at the University of Chicago. With a background in digital scholarship and research infrastructures, Torsten’s career is focused on making the global knowledge environment more open. Before joining the University of Chicago, he served on the British Library’s leadership team overseeing collection development, digital collection management, and research services. In previous roles, he developed open access and research data services at Imperial College London and the research infrastructure program at Jisc (the UK’s digital service provider for higher education). Torsten’s academic background is in history and digital humanities, having worked at King’s College London and the University of Munich (LMU). He holds a PhD in history from LMU and is a Fellow of the UK’s Software Sustainability Institute. His current external professional activities include roles as Chair of the Ivy Plus Libraries Confederation and the Open Repositories Conference as well as board and steering group memberships with organisations like the Big Ten Academic Alliance, COAR, DataCite, and SPARC. 

Photo by John Zich

Laura Sill is Head of Acquisitions at the University of Chicago Library. Laura has held operational and administrative roles in technical services and library systems over the course of her library career. She is currently leading the Banned Books Working Group at the Regenstein Library. Prior to joining the University of Chicago, Laura was a library faculty member at the Hesburgh Library of the University of Notre Dame. She holds a Masters of Library and Information Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

The University of Chicago Library is committed to building a Banned Books Collection, cultivating partnerships to bring awareness to this issue, and offering support through community engagement and events. It is a goal of the Initiative to advance research, inquiry, and debate around this issue by creating and stewarding a historical record, providing resources for research, and expanding access to titles that are banned elsewhere. 

The University of Chicago Library has partnered with the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) to expand The Banned Book Club and provides access to more than 900 unique titles that have been the target of bans in communities nationwide. ‘In the digital era, it should no longer be possible to ban books, and we are thrilled to have the University of Chicago Library join us to advance this work,’ said John S. Bracken, executive director of the Digital Public Library of America. ‘Overwhelmingly, these efforts to ban books are at their base efforts to remove Black, Brown, and Queer voices and experiences from our shelves. It is our goal to work together so that these stories remain available, for free, to anyone who wants to read them.’ 

“UChicago Library expands access to banned books amid national debate over censorship” – https://www.lib.uchicago.edu/about/news/uchicago-library-expands-access-to-banned-books-amid-national-debate-over-censorship/ 

 

Online

Monday 13th May, 7:00pm

£3

*These are difficult times. We know some people may struggle to afford full price tickets. If you would like to attend this event but can’t afford to, please contact info@writingonthewall.org.uk. All queries will be treated in confidence.   

If you would like to purchase a gifted ticket for someone who can’t afford it, please buy directly from the event page and we will offer your ticket out.    

Event Details

Date: May 13, 2024
Time: 7:00 pm

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