ROYAL OAK, Mich. – According to the American Library Association, 2022 is on track to see a record attempt at banning books at public libraries, universities, and schools which is why librarians in Royal Oak are bringing awareness to book bans with a riff on a Rock and Roll concert shirt.
On a table in the library, you’ll see a t-shirt that on the front says “I’m with the banned,” and on the back are the top 100 books that have been challenged over the last nine years.
Titles that have been challenged include classics like To Kill A Mockingbird and newer titles dealing with race and sexual orientation.
“We are here to protect your first amendment rights and your ability to read what you choose,” said library director Sandy Irwin. “There have been more censorship attempts in this past year across the nation than there have been in recent history.”
While banning books has not been an issue in Royal Oak, it has been in other Michigan communities like Jamestown Township in Ottawa County, which defunded its library over displeasure with LGBTQ titles.
A board member at the Hillsdale Community Library proposed banning Harry Potter books. Concerns over library books have prompted some parents to demand that specific titles be removed.
In Dearborn, the school district removed seven titles from its collection for further review after parents complained.
“It’s hard as a professional librarian because you want people to read what they want,” Irwin said. “Not everybody fits into this box of where somebody else’s values may live.”
Since that vote, donations have poured in, but the library will try in November to get voters to restore funding.
The staff designed the T-shirt being sold at the Royal Oak Public Library, and proceeds from the $15 price will go for unexpected library expenses.
So far, they’ve been a hot seller.