University librarians set record straight

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

During a lengthy discussion at the Pocahontas County Board of Education meeting in which parents and students shared their opinions on the books, “The Hate U Give” and “This Book Is Anti-Racism,” being included as part of the English curriculum at Pocahontas County High School, it was stated that Marshall University in Huntington, and University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, had both banned The Hate U Give from their campuses.

The dean of libraries at both universities advise that this statement is false.

After reading the BOE article in last week’s edition of The Pocahontas Times, Marshall University Dean of Libraries Dr. Monica Brooks reached out to the reporter to set the record straight.

“Marshall Libraries has never banned a book, will never ban a book and will never start banning books,” she said. “We’re actually the bastion of retaining banned books. We want students to have access to this information knowing full well that it’s entirely possible in their home counties or other states where they went to high school that they would not be exposed to these award winning titles such as The Hate U Give, which is an amazing book that has been exceedingly important right now with the national climate in regards to the subject matter that it covers.”

Brooks said she believes the information mentioned at the BOE meeting was taken from the university libraries website which includes a page dedicated to information on banned books. The page includes a list of banned books to educate the public about why and how books are banned.

“That page is to broaden people’s perspective on the fact that, ‘Oh, my God, even Huckleberry Finn has been banned,’” she said. “I guess they just misunderstood what they were looking at. This has actually happened before. It’s been years ago, but we had a letter come in to the newspaper here from someone who found the site and was scandalized that Marshall Libraries would ban all of these books on this list and then when I looked at it, I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh.’”

The University of Kansas Dean of Libraries Kevin Smith said he disagrees as well with banning books and that KU does not ban books.

“The claim that the University of Kansas banned the book The Hate U Give is absolutely false,” he said. “I have no idea where it came from.

“In my time as the Dean at the University of Kansas, I have never heard of any discussion to ban any book and as a lifelong librarian, I would, of course, oppose any effort to ban any book.”

Smith said that the misunderstanding may stem from how books are being loaned during the COVID-19 pandemic. In an effort to protect both the patrons and staff at the libraries, the majority of the library’s collection is provided electronically, and the physical books remain at the facility.

Currently, we’re not allowing people to physically access our collection,” he explained. “Our staff goes into our stacks and pulls books for people who need them. We also have access – temporarily during the pandemic – to a very large collection of electronic books through an organization called the HathiTrust. If a book is available in the HathiTrust, we cannot circulate the physical copy for copyright reasons.

“People can read the E-book, but we don’t circulate the physical copy,” he continued. “That’s currently the case with The Hate U Give. That’s for COVID reasons. It has nothing to do with the content of the book.”

Smith said approximately 40 percent of the library’s collection is available through the Trust in electronic form.

more recommended stories