Banned Books Week & Why It Matters

Banned Books Week celebrates books that some have tried to bowdlerize, censor and ban.

Banned Books Week celebrates books that some have tried to bowdlerize, censor and ban.

From Sept. 21 to 27, libraries and schools across the country will recognize Banned Books Week.

It’s a chance for us to remind you about all the society-changing books that have been banned or challenged. And there’s a good chance that list includes your personal favorite.

Imagine your bookshelf without To Kill a Mockingbird, Color Purple, Animal Farm, Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter.

And you might say: But that was a long time ago. We don’t still do stuff like that today?

Yes, we do.

Legislators in South Carolina planned to cut some funding to state colleges after the College of Charleston picked Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home as assigned reading. Bechdel is an award-winning cartoonist. You can probably guess what upset legislators based upon the name of Bechdel’s comic strip, Dykes to Watch Out For.

(You may also know her as the creator of the Bechdel Test, which challenges movies on a single parameter. Does a movie have at least two women, and do they talk about something other than a man in at least one scene? It’s astonishing how many films fail to cross that low threshold.)

Cartoons and graphic novels seem especially prone to challenges, because they are still perceived as low art.

For example, Bone—a fantasy series written and drawn by Ohio native Jeff Smith—was the tenth most challenged book in U.S. libraries last year.

The offending characters

The offending characters

Banned Book Weeks isn’t just about championing books that other people might have concerns about. After all, everyone’s entitled to their own taste in literature.

Banned Books Week is about having the freedom to read

There’s a reason we chose “Bradbury” as the password in our Banned Books video last year.

Ray Bradbury said, “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

So it doesn’t matter if no books are ever banned or challenged again. That is, it doesn’t matter if nobody reads them anyhow.

So commemorate Banned Books Week in the best possible way: Read.

Read a book that’s been banned or challenged. Read whatever you like.

But read. And decide for yourself what belongs on your bookshelf.

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7 Questions You Should Ask When Picking a College

A pretty campus isn't enough.

A pretty campus isn’t enough.

It’s College Prep week at Mentor Public Library. On Tuesday, Patricia Saddle of the  College Planning Center presented an overview on all aspects of the college-application process.

The last time Saddle spoke at MPL, we highlighted some of the worst reasons to pick a college.

This time, we’re sharing some of the questions you should ask when selecting your school.

1. What academic majors are offered?

This isn’t just a matter of, “Do they have the major I want?” After all, 50 to 70 percent of college students change their majors at least once. Know what the college offers and if it coincides with your career interests.

2. What organizations and clubs are available?

Yes, you’re going to college to learn, but you’re also going to participate. If you love theater—even if you don’t intend to major in drama—take into account if the college has a drama club. The same goes for karate clubs, intramural broomball leagues, jazz bands and whatever else it may be that you love.

3. What is the school known for?

Take into account a school’s reputation. It’s likely earned.

What are you looking for in a college or university? Somewhere with a strong alumni network? A vibrant arts scene? A school that’s as well known for its social life as its academics?

Research your colleges of interest and make sure they sync with your expectations.

4. Does the college offer what you need for your learning style?

Do you prefer individual attention or more independence from your teacher? Pay attention to average class sizes. It’s always helpful to get a current student’s impressions, as well.

5. What percentage of students come back for their sophomore year?

A school’s retention rate can be very telling. A high percentage of transfers and dropouts may indicate that a college does a subpar job of integrating new students.

6. How many students live on campus?

This question—much like our second and third questions—give you a sense of a school’s culture. Do most students go home or stay during the weekend? Do they live in dorms or independent housing? There is no right or wrong answer, but it’s a good sign when your preference coincides with your school’s statistics.

7. What does the university look like?

No, we don’t mean, “Is the campus pretty?” Frankly, any campus can look beautiful on the right day.

We mean is the campus tiny or sprawling? Is it urban, suburban or rural? It doesn’t matter too much if your campus is photogenic. It does matter if it’s in the middle of a city or if you need a car to get around it.

Our college prep series continues tonight. A representative from Lake/Geauga Education Assistance Foundation (LEAF) will talk about financing your college education. They will discuss loans, grants and scholarships, explain the differences between the three and tell students the best way to get them.

While the program is free and open to everyone, we that people register for it beforehand. They can do so by calling (440) 255-8811 ext. 214 or by visiting Mentor Library’s event calendar.

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Be your own hero at Mentor Library’s Comics Club

Abby draws Hula, a superhero she created.

Abby draws her own superhero during Mentor Library’s Comics Club.

A bisected page, two large eyes, the beginnings of a mouth—Abby is drawing a superhero she created during the most recent meeting of Mentor Library’s Comics Club.

“Her name is Hula,” she explains. “She uses her hula hoop to trap bad guys.”

The scene is decidedly relaxed during the latter half of the meeting. Some children draw—characters they’ve created, their Minecraft avatars—while others read graphic novels or issues of Tiny Titans and Adventure Time.

While most people associate comics with superheroes, the Comics Club is eclectic by design. One month they’re designing their own sidekicks. The next they’re reading independent web comics.

Our Comics Club is for any 8- through 12-year-old who likes to read, talk about or draw sequential art. We love everything from Amelia Rules to Batman to Bone.)

Our Comic Club meets from 7 to 8 p.m. on the first Tuesday of every month at our Main Branch.

At a typical meeting, the kids talk about a special theme. Then we introduce the kids to graphic novels and comics that can be found in the library’s collection.

We close out each meeting with free time for the kids to draw or read.

“Their favorite part of the night is drawing time,” Schulz said. “We use templates that resemble comic strips and comic-book pages, so the kids can do short 3-panel or longer stories. Some have created their own characters that they revisit every month while others draw something new every time.”

The next Comics Club meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Oct. 7 at the Mentor Public Library’s Main Branch. The theme for next month will be costumes.

To register a child for the Comics Club, call the library at (440) 255-8811 ext. 221.

Nicholas checks out an issue of Adventure Time during our Comics Club.

Nicholas checks out an issue of Adventure Time during our Comics Club.

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The Battle of the Books Begins

Who are you voting for in the Battle of the Books?

Who are you voting for in the Battle of the Books?

Is a young demigod any match for the boy who lived? Will Judy Moody overwhelm the Wimpy Kid? If the Wild Things win, will they celebrate with a wild rumpus?

These are just some of the questions leading into the first round of Mentor Public Library‘s Battle of the Books.

Eight children classics will duke it out tournament-style, and it’s up to you (and your kids) to vote for your favorites.

The first round match-ups are:

1. Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief vs. Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone

2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid vs. Judy Moody

3. Madeline vs. Where the Wild Things Are

4. I Want My Hat Back vs. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive

You can cast your votes for your favorite books with ballots located at the Children’s Desk at our Main Branch. The first round will take place now through September 28.

On September 29, the winners will move forward; and a new round of voting will begin and run until Oct. 6.

The championship round will run from Oct. 6 through 12, after which the winner will be crowned.

So who are you voting? And what children’s classic do you wish was in the brackets?

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Our newest Little Free Library location

We dropped off our newest Little Free Library at Memorial Middle School on Friday.

We dropped off our newest Little Free Library at Memorial Middle School on Friday.

Short post today to celebrate our newest Little Free Library at Memorial Middle School.

We love kids, we love books and we love giving books to kids; so having a Little Free Library at a school is a delight for us. Thanks to Principal Dudziak for making it happen!

This is our 16th Little Free Library—17th if you count the one we take with us during our Flash Libraries. People often tell us how much they like them and thank us for them; but, honestly, it’s we who should be thankful.

We’re thankful to all our partners who host them, thankful to all our volunteers who make sure they stay filled, thankful to everyone who donates books, and thankful to everyone who takes a book to read. Without all of you, our Little Free Libraries would just be handsome blue bird houses.

Never stop reading!

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