Arlington Public Library says it is taking a stand against book banning across the U.S. and in Virginia, declaring itself a “book sanctuary.”
“Everyone should read whatever they want, whenever they want and however they want,” said Library Director Diane Kresh in an announcement on social media this week.
As part of that commitment, Kresh plans to host a panel discussion featuring Pulitzer Prize-winning author Art Spiegelman, who is no stranger to the issue of book banning.
Last year, a Tennessee school board banned Pulitzer Prize-winning author Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel “Maus: A Survivor’s Tale,” which uses animal characters to portray his father’s experiences during the Holocaust, citing claims of inappropriate language and lewd images.
Spiegelman later criticized the decision, arguing the need to confront difficult aspects of history to prevent whitewashing.
Spiegelman’s visit serves as an early kick-off to Banned Books Week, a campaign by the American Library Association and Amnesty International. The library director tied this year’s campaign, which runs from Oct. 1-7, to recent attempts to ban books across the country and the state.
“In recent months, events have moved closer to home in the Commonwealth of Virginia, as libraries have been threatened with removal of books by certain members of the community,” Kresh said. “They’ve been subjected to personal assaults in person, at public meetings and on social media.”
Several neighboring school systems — including those in Fauquier and Prince William counties — have faced book challenges from both parents and administrators. These challenges generally revolve around concerns that students are being exposed to “sexually explicit material.”
Last year, the Virginia Department of Education implemented new model policies requiring all school districts to notify parents when instructional material containing sexually explicit content will be taught. Schools are also required to provide alternative curriculum for students if requested by their parents.
While these model policies are designed to strengthen what is commonly referred to as “parental rights,” some school systems, such as Hanover and Spotsylvania counties, have taken used the policies as a basis to remove certain books from schools altogether.
“Upholding the freedom to read requires vigilance and action taken by all of us to ensure that a multiplicity of views and diversity of opinion is housed in each library,” Kresh said.
Several banned books are prominently displayed behind Kresh in her Instagram video this week, including “The 1619 Project.” The book’s author, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Nikole Hannah-Jones, came to Arlington last year for Banned Books Week.
The discussion between Spiegelman and Kresh will take place at Kenmore Middle School auditorium tomorrow (Thursday) at 6:30 p.m., followed by an audience Q&A session. The event will be streamed and in-person attendees can buy signed copies of Spiegelman’s book.
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Holiday Art Show featuring artists: Peter Fitzgerald, Claire Plante, Alanna Rivera, and Suzy Scollon. At the Barcroft Community House, 800 South Buchanan St., Arlington, VA. Dec. 8 from, 2 PM to 8 PM and Dec. 9 from 10 AM to