Banned Book Week


September 25-October 1 is Banned Book Week, Celebrating the Freedom to Read.  We may not think much about banned books.  It seems rather old-fashioned in this tolerant society to even consider banning a book.  However, books are challenged and banned every day.  As a library media specialist (LMS), I keep up with the list and am proud to say I’ve read most of the top 100.  If you check out the list, you will see that many are classics.  Many of them are books you have read and may have read to your children.  They are part of the Advanced Placement reading lists for high schools across the nation.  They are award winners and Nobel winners and although some may not be to my personal taste (or even standards) they are stories the an author felt the need to tell.  Many of them contained content I did not agree with from a moral or ethical standpoint.  Many of them contained subject matter about which I did not want to read.  However, I feel it is important to expose myself to a variety of thoughts and ideas and viewpoints in order to be a well-rounded person, and a well-read LMS.  The list is quite frightening, to see that students, and sometimes the general public, are denied access to a delightful story simply because it offended one person.  In many book challenge cases, the “squeaky wheel gets the grease” and it is very unfortunate.  Imagine if YOU had been denied access to these books:

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Both of these titles were banned for being racially offensive.


This was banned for being pornographic.  (As a refresher to your high school English required reading, there is no sexual content AT ALL in the book, just a “mysterious” pregnancy and even it was handled with the sensibilities of the 19th century.)


I personally feel this should be required reading, and in many schools and states it is.  It was banned for “conflicting with community values.”


Harriet was banned because she “talked back to her parents.”  Wow.


Frankenstein was banned for being obscene and indecent.


Poor Anne.  She was banned for being too depressing.


And Alice and talking animals.  Yep, talking animals got Alice pulled from shelves.


I saved my favorite (and in my opinion most ridiculous) for last.  The good Dr. and his Green Eggs and Ham were banned for promoting a Marxist agenda.

So, before you decide to challenge a book or even censor the exposure of a title to your children, students, friends, do what I always taught my students.  Read it.  (Not just excerpts and not just fanning through it looking for “dirty” words or scenes.)  Read it.  Ask yourself these questions:

Why did the author tell this story?  (Is it the story of a minority people/group/idea that may speak to even one person?  Is this a story someone you know could relate to on a personal level?  Did this story open your eyes to how someone else may view the world or themselves?)

Why did the author use that word choice?  (Could it have been changed?  Probably.  However, they chose it for a reason. What does it reveal about the character who spoke it? Is it helping them express their anger or frustration or showing them to be the bad guy? And no, we never repeat them on the playground!)

What did you learn about yourself from this story?  (Sadly enough, I’ve been made aware of my own prejudices and judgments and sometimes shallow view points.)

One of the scariest and most exhilarating things about books is they expose us for who we are, and as I’ve discovered, sometimes it’s not a person I like very much.  So read.  Read, read, and read a bit more.  Allow the stories and characters and experiences we have through books to move us and change us and make us better people.  I had this poster printed and framed for my “old” library and I need to find a place to hang it in my new one.  It is the Rights of the Reader.

Having said all I have about banning books, we still have the right to read.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.


Column for September 19-23

For those who prefer their news online, I will be publishing my weekly column here after the local newspapers have printed.  This is my first column and I’m excited to share what we have at our library.  Please drop in to say “Hello!”

The library has had several new additions of late, including a new director. My name is Holly Gillum and I am the new Director of the Ashley County Library. I’ve spent the past 16 years in public education, starting my career as a teacher in the Hamburg schools and the past 14 years as a library media specialist in the Crossett schools. I am honored to have been selected to carry on the traditions of this wonderful “Reader’s Library” as it’s been named by our patrons. You can now keep up with us on social media. The library is on facebook, twitter and instagram. Look for “ashcolib” and follow us for the latest books, news, and more!

For the young adults, we’ve recently added the Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer. This is an exciting series featuring a mixture of genres and a retelling of some of our favorite fairy tales. The series begins with Cinder, a cyborg mechanic whose talents draws the attention of the Prince. Add in a plague, a bit of political intrigue, an unconventional romance and the adventure begins. We have all four books in the series, with Fairest, the prequel on order. Also added is Rick Yancy’s 5th Wave Trilogy, and Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle Series.

We have many new mystery titles from some of your favorite authors starting with The Jealous Kind by James Lee Burke. Burke takes us back to 1950’s Houston and features the poignancy of first love and violence of a class war involving the Mob and one of the richest families in Texas. Sheriff Joanna Brady is at it again in J.A. Jance’s newest novel, Downfall. Family drama, an election year, and a puzzling case of is it an accident or murder/suicide or double homicide, add pressure to Joanna as she tries to solve what seems to be a case with seemingly no connections. Anne Perry keeps the tension high with Revenge in a Cold River. When Commander Monk of the Thames River Police is called to investigate a drowning, he encounters customs officer McNab who clearly bears a grudge against him. Is McNab part of his forgotten past? His memory loss has made him vulnerable and at risk as not only his career hangs in balance, but also his life. Moving forward in time we catch up with Lieutenant Eve Dallas in J.D. Robb’s latest, Apprentice in Death. Eve and husband, Roarke, are searching for a sniper who picked off three victims in Central Park and has hidden himself well. The discovery of his location reveals there were two snipers, a younger one in training. It’s up to Eve to stop them before another attack takes place.

On a somewhat lighter note, we head West with Linda Lael Miller as we catch up with the Carson Brothers in Always a Cowboy. Drake Carson is tasked with managing the family ranch and is well aware of the harsh realities of life. Enter Luce Hale, a researcher invited to stay as she works on the interaction of wild horses and ranch animals. The two are at odds from the beginning, but as danger approaches Luce, it changes everything for both of them. We stay out west with Janet Dailey’s Texas Tall, part of the Tylers of Texas series. Tori Tyler can’t let ex-husband Will, go to prison for a crime that was simply an accident. Her feelings for him run deeper than loyalty and he can’t accept they may not have a second chance to make things right. The ranch is in trouble, his freedom is on the line and together they learn to fight for what really matters.

We are receiving new titles each week and will always order to meet the needs and interests of our readers. Our patrons are generous and we are thankful to Carolyn McGilton for her donation. Each week I will share a new title or two I am reading. This week is Arianna Huffington’s book The Sleep Revolution. The science, history and research she shares is fascinating. I’m also listening to The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware. It is part of our extensive audiobook collection. Join me in reading something every day!

Hello Ashley County!

The Ashley County Library  has entered the digital age!  We are excited have this forum in which to share information, activities, and most importantly, new books with you,  We are also developing a social media platform and are on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  Click on the links to follow us for the latest pictures and news from our library.


The first day of fall is nearly here and the library is decorated for the season!  We have a special table with items for sale just inside the door.  This month we are featuring cookbooks.  It is never to early to begin planning for the holidays, or just spicing up your regular menu.  I don’t know about you, but with the cooler breezes we’re having, it makes me want to turn on my oven and start baking.  We have several church cookbooks, which I personally think are the best.  They feature “real” food from “real” people with ingredients we can purchase at our local grocery store.  These wonderful books won’t last long, so stop in and check them out.


This month we are also making room for new children’s movies.  These VHS tapes are in need of a good home.  It is always hard to see things go, but I have the memories I associate with these films and I’m sure you will too.  Perhaps you’d like to share them with your children or grandchildren.  There are hours of entertainment here but they will only be here for a limited time, so don’t wait!

We are glad to have you join us on this page and will be glad to see you in our library.  Drop by and say, “Hello!” and tell us how we can best meet your needs.