POTSDAM — On the steps of the Potsdam Public Library on Sunday, competing with the roar of traffic on Park Street, a handful of book lovers read passages from books that have been challenged or banned from libraries and schools across the nation.
Some of the selections might be surprising.
Potsdam Public Library’s Family Literacy Specialist Maria Morrison, read from To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.
Doug Buchanan, a social studies teacher at Salmon River read from the Bible, and Kate Kreuger, a director of honors and a professor of literature in the Honors Program at Clarkson University, read from Harry Potter and the Scorcer’s Stone.
“When I think about the function of a library, I think about access, and I think about democracy,” Ms. Krueger said before she started her reading.
Before the advent of public libraries, people had to have money to get books, Ms. Krueger said. When books are banned, society is taking away access to knowledge.
“One of the greatest things of our American democratic society is the function of a public library,” Ms. Kreuger said. “Which is us putting our money together, which is us putting our public will together and allowing open doors to all kinds of knowledge.”
Library patrons have a choice, Ms. Kreuger said.
“There are books I would not take off the shelf for myself; There are books I would not take off the shelf for my 6-year-old,” she said.
Banning books, she said, is taking that choice away from someone else.
Banned Books Week, which runs through Oct. 2, is organized by the Banned Books Week Coalition made up of such organizations as the American Library Association, the American Booksellers Association, the American Society of Journalists and Authors and others.
Banned Books Week began in 1982 and is typically held during the last week of September.
The Potsdam Public Library event was organized by William T. Eckert, Potsdam Public Library’s adult program coordinator.
Mr. Eckert said Sunday that, weather permitting, a microphone and speaker will be available on the front stairs of the library for a sort of open mic opportunity for people to read from banned books throughout the week.
Other readers Sunday included:
— Potsdam Town Council member Sarah L. Lister, who read from Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
— Rivka Eckert, assistant professor of theater and dance at SUNY Potsdam, who read from In The Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak
— Jay W. Pecora, the department chair and an associate professor of theater and dance at SUNY Potsdam, who read from Of Mice & Men, by John Steinbeck
— Kayla French, an English teacher at Parishville-Hopkinton Central School, who read from Howl, by Alan Ginsburg
— Andrew Carpino, a teacher at Catherine of Siena Academy in Canton, who read from The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier