President’s Message

President’s Message By Nancy McCabe

My message this month recaps the April Branch meeting for all of you who missed Episode 8 of this year’s programs. Our Program Vice-Presidents, Hedda Smithson and Barbara Smith, coordinated with the Citrus Heights-American River AAUW Branch to deliver an outstanding event focused on the Right  to Read Anything You Want to Read. In keeping with our theme of Lights, Camera, Action, the program focused Light on the issue of book challenging and banning. We learned that many books are challenged, not as many are actually banned.

Our speakers were Justin Azevedo, the children and youth’s materials selector for the Sacramento Library System and Brenna Bellavance, chief book seller and selector at Underground Books in Oak Park.  Accompanying them was Christy Aguirree, Head of Acquisitions for the entire Sacramento Library system.

Justin explained that a challenged book is one that has received a request for removal from the library or that it be moved from the children’s section to the adult section. If the challenge is granted, the book is removed from the system. It is “banned.”  The number of requests has increased dramatically in recent years. He also explained that as a public employee, he has a different approach to a book than he does as a father of young children. As a public employee, he may not allow his personal opinion to interfere with other people’s right to decide what their children may read.  As a parent he can!

Brenna explained the unique role that Underground Books plays in the Oak Park community. The bookstore operates under the umbrella of St. Hope, a non-profit committed to revitalizing Oak Park through high quality education and economic development. As such, Underground Books serves as a bookstore, a replacement for the long-closed Oak Park public library, and a community gathering center. It stocks materials that are reflective of and relevant to the people of the area.  To encourage reading, free books are distributed at monthly children’s events funded primarily through donations. The goal of allowing children to see themselves depicted in books and their community, a Black Santa visits and distributes books to the multitude of children who come to have their annual “picture with Santa” taken.

Christy answered questions about library funding, staffing, dealing with the public, and the effort to deal with requests for banning books.

In short, we all learned how very fortunate we are to have such a dynamic, committed library staff and system in Sacramento. They provide untold service to the community every day.

Your Action response to this meeting should be to speak up in public whenever and where ever you encounter efforts to ban books, especially at local school board meetings where most such efforts begin. Do not allow the loudest, often lone, voice to intimidate. Also, choose to read books that focus on groups and lives dissimilar to your own. Do this in your book group or family. Start or join a banned book club (there are specialty Tee shirts just for that!). Click <here> to see the list of the 100 most banned and challenged books from 2010-2019.  You have probably read a lot of them!

I hope to see you on May 18 for Episode 9!