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October 12, 2023

During Banned Books Week, Pressley, Librarians, Educators Affirm Need for Representative Literature

At Randolph Roundtable, Leaders Brainstorm Solutions to Push Back on Growing Book Censorship Nationwide

Video (YouTube) | Photos (DropBox)

BOSTON — On Friday, during Banned Books Week, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) visited the Turner Free Library in Randolph to discuss the growing threat of book bans across the country and the need for accessible, representative literature. Rep. Pressley was joined at the roundtable by librarians, educators, and community members from Randolph and Milton.

According to estimates, more than 3,300 books were banned in the 2022-2023 school year, a 33% increase from the previous school year. These bans overwhelmingly target books about race and racism, as well as books with LGBTQ+ characters.

“During National Book Month and every month, we should be honoring the brilliance and diversity of our authors, illustrators, and librarians,” said Rep. Pressley. “With book bans on the rise nationwide, I am grateful to the community members, librarians, and educators here in the Massachusetts 7th advocating for the continued representation of our communities in our books and the freedom to pursue boundless knowledge. Every reader has a right to read and learn, and see themselves reflected in our literature, and discussions like these will help our policy response to this growing crisis.”

Joining Rep. Pressley at the roundtable were Randolph Town Manager Brian Howard, Elizabeth LaRosee; Milton Selectman Mike Zullas; Co-Presidents of the Tucker School Parents Teacher Organization Maribeth Flakes and Leslie McCarthy; therapist Jen Erbe Leggett; Milton School Board Member Beverly Ross Denny, Randolph Town Councilor Chris Alexopoulos, Randolph Turner Free Library Trustee Anne Lustwerk, Randolph DEI Coalition Sharon Artis Jackson; Randolph Faith Leader Pastor Timoth Silva; TFL Library Director Sharon Parrington-Wright; TFL Teen Engagement Specialist Joanne Batson; TFL Children’s Librarian Samantha Westgage; Milton Library Director William Adamson; MBLC Intellectual Freedom Rep Maura Deedy and community member Vivine Wilson.

“Our core mission as a public library is to provide our users with equitable access to materials that reflect the widest possible diversity of viewpoints, expressions, and experiences,” said Sharon Parrington-Wright, Library Director, Turner Free Library. “The discussion we were able to host at the Turner Free Library is just one small part of the ongoing and critical work libraries in Massachusetts and across the nation are doing to protect each person’s first amendment right to make their own choices about what they and their families will read. The freedom to read is the foundation of any democratic society and we are grateful to all the community members and elected officials for their participation in this session and for standing with libraries in the fight against censorship.”

“We would like to thank Congresswoman Pressley for the opportunity to host this multi-town discussion surrounding intellectual freedom and the first amendment rights of our residents,” said Brian Howard, Randolph Town Manager. “Libraries are critical in ensuring our residents have access to materials that reflect, reaffirm, and validate their lived experience. Books can save lives by being a critical resource of information and support. I am proud to say that the Randolph Turner Free Library is at the forefront of this movement.”

“It is the foundational principles of the free public library to make information available for an informed citizenry,” said Maura Deedy, Library Advisory Specialist, MBLC. “Everyday professional librarians and library workers go to work to ensure the free, equal, and open access to information and books for their community, as protected in the First Amendment. These values are in action in the carefully developed collections reflecting the diverse and lived experiences of students and residents.”

Photos from the event are available here.

In August 2022, Rep. Pressley visited Randolph to celebrate $275,000 in federal community project funding she delivered for culturally responsive resources and digital literacy tools for Randolph Public Schools.

In April 2022, at a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing, Rep. Pressley discussed the harm banning books in schools would have on future generations.