April 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Editor Marks Banned Books Week by Being Locked Up at Vonnegut Memorial Library

The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library is expecting an unusual window display starting September

Corey Michael Dalton

30—writer and editor Corey Michael Dalton plans to mark Banned Books Week by camping out there to demonstrate the value of our freedom to read.

Dalton’s decision to spend 24/7 there until October 6—except for bathroom breaks—stems from the Vonnegut Library’s fight against Missouri’s Republic High School, which last year removed copies of Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five from the library and relocated them to a place only accessible by parents.

After Republic High School’s move to restrict the book, the Vonnegut Library offered to send free copies to any Republic High School student who requested one. To date, the library has mailed 75 copies.

“We thought this would be perfect for Banned Books Week,” says Dalton, the editor of U.S. Kids Magazine’s Jack and Jill, Turtle and Humpty Dumpty. “The book is locked up, and I would be locked up in the front window. It’s a symbolic thing that this is how the book is now allowed to live in the free world.”

Launched in 1982, Banned Books Week typically takes place the last week of September and highlights the importance of intellectual freedom, while also reminding readers how many books are removed regularly from school libraries and classrooms across the country.

Slaughterhouse Five, an anti-war story of a World War II soldier who travels through time after being abducted by aliens, was one of the Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books from 2000 to 2012, according to the American Library Association (ALA), which along with the American Booksellers Association, the  American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the Freedom to Read Foundation, the National Coalition Against Censorship, and others, sponsor the event.

For those with the urge to check-up on Dalton, a webcam will be installed and viewable from the library’s main website, where he’ll also be blogging. Those who want to pop in and say hello will be able to catch some of the library’s other activities for the week, which will include an evening reading of banned books and Skype visits from authors Michael Dahle, Ben H, Winters, to filmmaker Michael Moore. While all the titles have yet to be decided, Julia Whitehead, the library’s executive director, promises “a wonderful passage from Slaughterhouse Five.

But don’t expect Dalton to sit on his heels and read all week either. The editor isn’t taking vacation time for his public protest, and says he’ll be working on his magazines.

“They’re setting me up with a desk, laptop, and networking me into my computer at work,” he says. “The November/December issues are going to be on the wall, and staff is going to be bringing me pages to edit and approve that week.

Born in Indianapolis, IN, Vonnegut later moved away. But the library is located in his hometown. Since opening its doors in January 2011, it allows anyone to check out books—titles that are mostly classics and donated to the library.

Although the library isn’t city-funded, it offers WiFi and tours—all free to visitors who chose to visit the “laid-back” spot, Whitehead says. “We’re not going to hound people if they’re a few days late with their book. You just sign a notebook page and we take your contact information, and look at your driver’s license. We trust you’ll bring the book back, and we haven’t been burned.”

Lauren Barack About Lauren Barack

School Library Journal contributing editor Lauren Barack writes about the connection between media and education, business, and technology. A recipient of the Loeb Award for online journalism, she can be found at www.laurenbarack.com.