Rutgers holds series of events and exhibits for Banned Books Week
The Art Library is leading the fight against censorship
Despite hundreds of challenges per year to censor books, only about 10 percent actually end up getting censored. This is mostly because of events like Rutgers’ "Banned Books Week," which celebrates the freedom to read.
The event highlights the importance of access to information, according to the site. It also intends to raise awareness about the dangers of censorship.
This year is different than the celebration in year’s past because the Art Library received a Freedom to Read grant, said arts librarian Megan Lotts.
Lotts said the grant provided them with opportunities to make this year’s "Banned Books Week" bigger than ever, including exhibits and swag.
She was also able to work with four Mason Gross School of the Arts visual arts printmaking students to create six images around the idea of book censorship. A panel of judges picked a winning image that will go on t-shirts, Lotts said. The reveal of who won will take place tonight, during a reception and the winner will receive a $100 prize. All six images have been turned into buttons that have been given away throughout the week.
“I went in, kind of talked to them and gave them a lecture about censorship and the ideas of censorship and why that matters to us in the arts. There’s been an enormous amount of really spectacular art banned,” she said.
Lotts said as individuals, people have the right to free speech and the right to express themselves.
“We don’t have to like everything everyone has to say, but you know, we do have to let their voices be heard. And I think that’s really crucial right now in the times that we’re living,” she said. “And I think that it’s something that we really want to celebrate our intellectual freedom and these ideas.”
Lotts said students were flabbergasted by the idea of censorship, and that people may not notice when censorship takes place.
“I think we’re really at a time where a lot of people are really having to stand up and fight for themselves and I think we have to remember that everyone has the opportunity, at least in the United States, of that First Amendment of free speech and their right to express themselves and not be censored and not be shamed,” she said.
Planning for the event began in July, right after Lotts found out they received the grant, she said. But students had less than two weeks to design the t-shirts.
Events during the week included an exhibit of handmade paper representing their favorite banned art along with a story about why it is important. Exhibits in the Art Library including banned materials obtained by Rutgers, coloring pages, bookmarks and buttons. There was also a contest in the library that consisted of students looking at shreds of banned books and guessing which book it is, Lotts said.
Tonight is the last big event of the week, Lotts said. They will be hosting a reception in the Arts Library from 7 to 8 p.m., and students will be able to get a free t-shirt and refreshments at the event. At 7:30 p.m., a Mason Gross School of the Arts visual arts MFA candidate will also be performing.
Lotts said she hopes the Rutgers community can have a greater dialogue about the ideas of censorship and intellectual freedom.
“We are such a wonderful, rich, diverse campus and community and we are lucky that we have this and that we do have to allow all voices to be heard,” she said. “I think that in all that’s going on in the world in protest and people really needing to be heard, I think we can be a place and a space where we can have positive protest, we can have peaceful protesting and discussions where we can really talk to each other and not have these moments of tension and to really create a dialogue. And I hope that can be something we talk about tomorrow, and then we can celebrate our freedom to express ourselves.”