I have often been asked why I ever started working in a library. Or maybe it’s because I have been applying for library and bookstore jobs, and my reality is somewhat biased. Either way, I always tell them the story of how Banned Books week got me.
When I was a student in high school, I walked into the library and just like that, I was drawn to the Banned Books week display. There was a cage, and the books were literally locked up. Having already established my freedom for all sort-of philosophy, the display of classics enraged me. I knew I loved books, so I started volunteering. And just like that I landed a job and was soon making my own Banned Books Week display. I didn’t know it then, that it was an entire week. I thought it was just the library trying to get volunteers.
When I asked my first boss-lady at the library what got her involved, why she became a librarian, she said it was because of “Sex.”
She then went on to tell me the story about Madonna’s book, titled, very explicitly, “Sex.” The library she was working part-time in, (not as a librarian), had a policy of ordering all of the new books that were best-sellers. Well, they ordered Madonna’s “Sex” book, and it drew controversy from all. Many wanted the book taken off the shelve before it got there. But the library stood strong, and people lined up to get when their hold on the book came up.
Like me, she fell in love with intellectual freedom. After hearing this story, I asked her if she would order all of the banned books from the top 100 list. She said she would. A few weeks later, she said she did, except, Madonna’s “Sex” book. Why, I asked.
Apparently the damn the thing goes for $300 bucks on Ebay. Sensing my want to see it for the first time, she pulled it out of her book bag, and let me take a gander at the very thing that brought her to libraries. It was a good moment, and I will always remember when I looked at what some people call porn with my boss. To end today’s awesome second part to Banned Books Week here on iREADray, I am going to leave you with a quote from one of the greatest writers that have walked on American soil, the belated Kurt Vonnegut.
“While on the subject of burning books, I want to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength, who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and destroyed records rather than have to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles. So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House, the Supreme Court, the Senate, the House of Representatives, or the media. The America I loved still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.” -Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country