BEND, OR -- This is Banned Books Week; although, Emily O'Neal says it's a bit of a misnomer, "It comes across a little bit like we’re here to go ban all the books; so, please don’t do that."
O’Neal Chairs the Oregon Library Association's Intellectual Freedom Committee, and is the Technical Services Manager at the Deschutes Public Library. She says this week is a chance to raise awareness, "To celebrate and honor the materials that have gone through this process over the last year." And there are a lot. The State Library of Oregon reports a record 93 challenged titles over the past year. The previous record was 70, set three decades ago. O'Neal believes censorship efforts run in cycles based on current events and social trends, "The late 80s/early 90s, there was the ‘satanic panic,’ and it was all books about religion, and satanism or witchcraft. You go back to the 70s and it would be communism and the ‘red scare.’" In the past year, nearly all challenged materials were related to the LGBTQ+ or BIPOC communities. O’Neal says threats against librarians are also on the rise in Oregon.
If you come across a book you think is inappropriate, O’Neal suggests two options. One: don’t read it, "You don’t have to absorb that material; nobody is making you do that. The second is: If you want to expand that world view and that belief system, it’s a great time to read that material and maybe get to know why it does exist." She says it’s important to consider the topics certain groups want censored, "And really dive into why they have value, why they exist and why they need to remain on library shelves and available for community members to read and enjoy."
As part of Banned Books Week, a “Let Freedom Read” rally is scheduled for Sunday at 2 p.m. at Redmond’s American Legion Park. O'Neal tells KBND News, "It is a week to celebrate and honor anti-censorship and really recognize the importance of intellectual freedom and the First Amendment rights of individuals in your community."
Oregon is home to the new nonprofit Parents Defending Schools and Libraries to push back against censorship.