Engaging Methuen Readers

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Banned Books Week: Censorship

Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association


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Banned Books Week: Who Influenced You to Read? #2

As part of this year’s Banned Book Week Celebration, we are answering questions posed by the American Library Association.


I grew up watching my parents read whenever they could, and they always encouraged me to read as well.  Occasionally, they would buy me a new book as a treat.  But I think I amused and frustrated them when I when read it cover to cover in an afternoon!  As a favor to their own wallets, they started bringing me to the library and this changed my world.

When my parents let me loose in the library is when I really started to understand more about the privilege of having free access to books.  My young preteen self would wander among the stacks and stacks of books in my little town library in Upstate New York and feel amazed.  So many books!  And I could take them out and read them!  One fall day, I saw that the librarians had put up a display about what I would come to realize were banned books.  Banned Books?  I didn’t quite understand what that meant.  I asked the librarian what that meant, and I couldn’t believe when she told me that someone somewhere decided that for whatever reason, the books on the display shouldn’t be available to everyone!  I looked again at the books on the display and saw The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.  And you know what I did?  I took them home and read them.  Because I could.

So thank you to my parents for encouraging me to read for fun, and to the librarians at Liverpool Public Library in New York for helping me understand my right to read.

∼ Sarah, NL Head of Readers’ Services



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Banned Books Week: What book would you go to the ‘slammer’ for?

As part of this year’s Banned Book Week Celebration, we are answering questions posed by the American Library Association.

bbw16prompt1The short answer is– all of them, any of them, each and every one of them!  The longer answer is that nobody, NOBODY has a right to tell me or anyone else what they can and cannot read and think.  To be sure there are some books that I would be happier to go to jail for than others…including:

To Kill a Mockingbird – Who would deny anyone the right to reach into the mind of Scout Finch and think about racism in America and what it has done to our communities and our children?

Harry Potter – Why would anyone try to deny children (or adults) the pleasures of the complex and imaginative world of Hogwarts, and the rich story of courage, loyalty and love that is found in all seven of the books in this series?

Daddy’s Roommate – Because families come in all sizes, shapes, colors, and gender mixtures, and kids deserve the opportunity to read stories that reflect the world in all its glorious diversity.

It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex & Sexual Health – What purpose is served by prohibiting children who are curious about their physical development from finding out about themselves in a clear and factual way?  Certainly if parents want to talk about these matters with their kids themselves, that is fine, but no one should try to deny access to information on this topic to other parents and kids who are looking for it.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time — What right does anyone have to keep a wonderful story like this out of other people’s hands because they don’t like profanity or because it does not reflect their religious views?  None, I say!

So, those are a few of my favorite books that other people have tried to keep out of libraries and therefore keep away from other people.  There are many, many other books that have been challenged or banned that are not my favorites; books that I don’t like the content of, or that offend me personally, however I would risk jail to defend any of them and my right…YOUR right to read them!

∼Krista, NL Library Director


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Banned Books Week: Giving books to your younger self

As part of this year’s Banned Book Week Celebration, we are answering questions posed by the American Library Association. 
thumbnail_bbw16prompt5There are a lot of books that I’ve read over the years that may have been a boon to my younger self. So, I’m gonna cheat a little and tell you all about two. Shh…

First, one of the books that I think I would have really liked to read when I was a kid is “The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks” by Sam Maggs. As a kid I knew that I liked things/books/tv series that most of the rest of the public at that time didn’t, but with this book I would have been able to put names to the fandoms and realized that there were thousands of other kids totally nerding out about the same things that I was.

Second would be “Lock In” by John Scalzi. I read a lot of mysteries like Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, etc. as a kid. I also positively devoured as many of the Star Trek novels as I could get my hands on. This book is one of the most perfect combinations of Mystery and Science Fiction that I’ve ever read. I definitely would have liked it as a kid, and then I’d have started on his Old Man’s War series much earlier too!

∼ Danielle, NL Reference/Outreach Librarian

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Banned Books Week: Memorizing Machiavelli

As part of this year’s Banned Book Week Celebration, we are answering questions posed by the American Library Association. 


In 1559, the Pope banned The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli.

Over the next 100 years, the Catholic church was to discover, to its intense chagrin, why the Pope considered Machiavelli so dangerous. On the other hand, the nobility of Europe, which largely ignored the ban, would quickly learn the liberating joys of political science. Hearts were broken. The bad guys won. The ends ultimately justified the means, (at least, to the people writing the history books,) and Machiavelli, now tested and found true, became the go-to professor of power.

The mentality of a book banner is also one that trends toward the consolidation of power, Machiavellian in spirit if not in word. But it’s a clumsy tell. Anyone who is afraid of you reading The Prince understands The Prince as a threat, just like the Pope did. And it is. It’s a threat to ignorance. This book illuminates the gears of power. In a functioning system, that wouldn’t be scary, because good leaders should have confidence in their position. But in a system that is falling apart, that illumination is anathema. It exposes weak spots and predicates change. The Europe that unfolded when the nobility ignored the Pope’s ban on The Prince might not have been a paradise, but it did prove that it was possible to push out an unacceptable system of governance using nothing but philosophy.

Moral panic about Harry Potter may embarrass us. Outrage about Where’s Waldo may strike us as silly. But if anyone ever bans The Prince again, we should all take notice immediately. Here’s a book worth committing to memory. It’s the blueprint for a machine that we may someday need to fix.

∼ Anna, NL Reference/Tech Librarian