UW-Stout held its yearly Banned Books event yesterday in the Stout library. The Menard Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation, along with University Library; Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; Center for Applied Ethics;, Honors College; and Literature committee sponsored the event, which was attended by about 40 people, mostly students.   The event was moderated by Tim Shiell of the MCSII. 

Shannon M. Oltmann is an Associate Professor in the School of Information Science at the University of Kentucky.  She gave the keynote speech at the event, documenting the rise in requests to ban books throughout the US. Due to a COVID infection Professor Oldmann spoke virtually. 

Fewer than 300 books were challenged or banned from libraries in the US in 2021, but that number has increased to over 600  this year, according to the American Library Association. Dr. Oltmann spoke on behalf of libraries carrying books representing all points of view and was alarmed by the increasing number of proposed laws in the US promoting the control of books available in public and school libraries. This includes six proposed laws in Wisconsin. 

Proposals to ban books are primarily in one of three categories - books that include content about LGBTQIA issues, content that may be considered sexually explicit, and issues that are considered anti-police, or bringing up issues of racism. 

Menomonie Public Library Director Jolene Sterk also spoke at the event, providing more local insight on requests to remove books from public and school libraries in the county. She spoke to the fact that this was not a big issue in Menomonie until some time last August, at which time the library started seeing more objections to books being held in the public library, particularly in regard to their availability to children.

She spoke of her belief  that all people deserve to enjoy basic human rights and dignity, and that people should feel empowered to work for systemic change when there are broken systems.  She stated "I personally find it most concerning when people's stories aren't being told, or someone attempts to conceal or eliminate or eradicate stories because all of our lived experiences matter. " 

She also discussed her experiences with being a member of the reconsideration board for the public school system and how the board has voted to retain all of the books that have been recently challenged in the school district.

A lively discussion with the primarily-student audience ensued, with the students supporting the free availability of books in public libraries, with some of them telling personal stories of how it has been important for them to have books available that relate to difficult issues in their own lives. 

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Steve Hanson

Steve is a web designer and recently retired from running the hosting and development company Cruiskeen Consulting LLC. Cruiskeen Consulting LLC is the parent company of Wis.Community, and publication of this site continues after his retirement.

Steve is a member of LION Publishers and the Local Media Association, is active in Health Dunn Right, and is vice-president of the League of Women Voters of the greater Chippewa Valley

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