The Nashville Public Library has launched a campaign urging readers to check out “banned books” — a push that comes as two Tennessee school districts remove critically acclaimed works from their curriculums.
The NPL’s “Freedom to Read” effort is seeking to register 5,000 new Davidson County residents for library cards in the month ending May 26.
Newly minted supporters will receive a limited-edition “Forbidden Books” “library card”, according to the NPL.
“I want Nashvillians to know: The Nashville Public Library will always respect your freedom to read — to independently determine what you read and don’t read, and to exercise your part in determining what your children read,” said NPL Director Kent Oliver in a statement.
During the campaign launch, NPL specifically mentioned two school districts in Tennessee for their recent decisions to remove some high-profile work.
“The reason we specifically mentioned these (school districts) is because it’s here, it’s happening at home,” NPL spokesman Ed Brown told NBC News on Thursday.
“It’s not something that happens theoretically in a school in New York or a school in California. It’s a school in Tennessee and it’s something real, which has an impact on the people of Tennessee. ”
The NPL does not explicitly criticize those districts, Brown said, but reminds those parents, residents and students that they can pick up “Maus” or “Walk Two Moons” at a branch in Music City.
“This campaign is not intended to criticize their decision, push back against it or try to reverse it. This decision was made with input from parents and the school board and that is how it should be” , Brown said.
“Where we come from is that even though it was a majority opinion of ‘Hey, we don’t want that here’, there’s still a minority of people saying, ‘Yeah but I want to read it , I want our children to read it. And we want to draw attention to the fact that ‘Well, at NPL you can.’”
Representatives for McMinn County Schools and Williamson County Schools could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.
In these last weeksTennessee has become a focal point of the national debate over whether governments should play a greater role in restricting the works available in schools and public libraries.
When Republican State Rep. Jerry Sexton was asked if he would go so far as to physically destroy books, he considered inappropriate, the legislator responded“I have no idea, but I would like burn them.”