Diverse panel discusses banned books

Left to right: Naomi Wood, K-State English professor, Charissa Powell, assistant professor and undergraduate and community services librarian of K-State Libraries, Vicki Sherbert, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction in the university's College of Education, Brandon Haddock, coordinator of the university's LGBT Resource Center, and Reverend Patrick McLaughlin of First United Methodist Church answers student's questions on "Sex, Age, and Religion" in response to censorship challenges as a part of a panel discussion for Banned Books Week in the Hemisphere room of Hale Library on Sept. 29, 2015. (Emily Starkey | The Collegian)

As part of this fall’s Banned Books Week, a panel of speakers gathered in the Hemisphere Room at Hale Library to speak to students, faculty and community members about banned books. The panel was organized by Dan Ireton, undergraduate and community services librarian, and Naomi Wood, professor of English.

The panel included speakers from different areas of expertise, each of who was able to share a different viewpoint on the issue of banned books. The panel included Vicki Sherbert, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction; the Rev. Patrick McLaughlin, First United Methodist Church; Brandon Haddock, coordinator of the K-State LGBT Resource Center; and Charissa Powell, assistant professor and undergraduate and community services librarian. Wood moderated the panel.

The panel discussion focused on reasons for censorship in literature, including education, the LGBT and religious themes and ideas specifically in young literature.

“Well, we looked at the most frequently banned books of the last year, and we realized that they were most often children’s to young adult books, and that they were most often banned because of their content,” Wood said. “So, we thought we should have a panel of people who can speak directly to these issues.”

According to Wood, she hasn’t personally crossed paths with any book ban issues in quite some time.

“It’s been a long time since that’s happened since I work in a university where freedom of speech is the default and freedom of information is the default,” Wood said.

However, Wood said that she runs into issues with book censorship in students who come from backgrounds that may not have allowed them to be exposed to certain literature.

“Students who come from those kinds of backgrounds, it sort of stunts their growth,” Wood said. “It stunts their mental growth. It stunts their empathetic growth if they’ve never had the opportunity to read about a certain experience or read about a certain period in history.”

Powell said that her experience with banned books as a child was minimal, aside from when friends of hers weren’t allowed to read books from the “Harry Potter” series.

“For me, I think not being allowed to read something that could be really, really crucial to your growing up is really, really sad,” Powell said.

Anna Meyer, junior in creative writing and psychology, said that she attended the banned books discussion to gain perspective and insight from the diverse group of speakers on the panel.

“I saw the people that were on the panel, and so I knew that there was a religious standpoint, there was a queer standpoint, and I was really interested in seeing kind of what everyone thought because I don’t get a lot of exposure to hearing about the same censorship situation from different perspectives,” Meyer said.

According to Powell, Banned Books Week activities will continue through this Friday with readings from banned books each day between noon and 1:00 p.m. in Bosco Student Plaza.

Hey there! I'm Danielle Cook. I'm currently a freshman in journalism and mass communications. I live for telling true stories, so I hope to be doing it for the rest of my life. Luckily, I also live for late nights and early mornings – as long as there's coffee and I'm in good company.