Vanderbilt observes Banned Books Week with events, discussions about free expression

Policies and legislation across the U.S. have made the reading and teaching of banned books difficult in K–12 classrooms and libraries. To help the Vanderbilt and Nashville communities navigate these changes, offices across Vanderbilt established a Banned Books Initiative featuring a series of events, including reading groups, throughout the academic year.  

The reading groups will include an un-banning books event in November and a closing address given to the groups by Maia Kobabe, author of Gender Queer,  in April 2024. Participating offices include Peabody College’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and Department of Teaching and Learning, the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center, K.C. Potter Center for LGBTQI Life, Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries, Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center and the Student Center for Social Justice and Identity. 

The Banned Books Initiative, now in its second year at Vanderbilt, will recognize Banned Books Week Oct. 1–7. The events are in conjunction with Vanderbilt’s recently announced recommitment to supporting free expression and civil discourse on campus with the launch of Dialogue Vanderbilt. 

According to the American Library Association, “Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to read and spotlights current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools. For 40 years, the annual event has brought together the entire book community—librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers and readers of all types—in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular. The books featured during Banned Books Week have all been targeted for removal or restriction in libraries and schools. By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship.”

Events planned for Banned Books Week include:  

  • A reception on Oct. 4 to celebrate the establishment of a “little banned books library.”

  • A panel on Oct. 5 to discuss the effect of banned and challenged books on the community