Banned Books Symposium

In partnership with the Dutchess, Orange/Ulster, Sullivan, and Ulster School Library Systems, Mount Saint Mary College will host a Banned Books Symposium on Saturday, March 7, 2020 on the MSMC campus in Newburgh, NY. This half-day conference will feature presentations on all aspects of working with and responding to banned, challenged, and controversial books. Our keynote speaker will be Nick Bruel, author and illustrator of New York Times bestseller BoingBad KittyBad Kitty Gets a Bath and Bad Kitty Meets the Baby, among others. A book sale and signing will take place following Mr. Bruel's keynote speech.

Registration for this event is $25 and includes breakfast and lunch. Continuing education credit will be awarded to qualified teachers in the Hudson Valley who take part in the symposium. Click here to register for the Banned Books Symposium.

                                                                                 Program Schedule

                                                                              Registration: 8:30a-9:a

                                                                                  Welcome: 9a-9:10a

                                                                 Opening Plenary Session: 9:10a-10:20a

                                                                               Session A: 10:25-11:10a

                                                                              Session B: 11:15a-12p

                                                                                   Lunch: 12p-12:30p

                                                                Closing Keynote (Nick Bruel): 12:30p-1:30p

                                                                             Book Sale & Signing to Follw


Session Presentations

The Not-So-Fun Challenge of "Fun Home".  School librarians strive to build diverse and inclusive collections, but what happens when censors try to ban those materials? Participants will learn how Martha successfully fought her district’s attempt to ban Alison Bechdel’s "Fun Home." In addition to getting access to the materials used to defend the book, participants will receive a checklist and links for preparing a Challenge Emergency Kit composed of free resources that can be customized for any challenged book in any school or grade level. Presented by Martha Hickson, School Librarian, North Hunterdon High School

Banned Books for Bibliotherapy.  Bibliotherapy is using characters in books, primarily fiction, to help heal. It is like handing a child a "friend" of sorts, so they do not feel so alone. Many banned books have sensitive topics, perfect for Bibliotherapy. In Judy Blume's Tiger Eyes, Davey unexpectedly loses her father. This would be an ideal book to give to a child who had experienced the death of a loved one to feel as though they are not alone. In this presentation, Bibliotherapy's use will be explored with methods for connecting students with characters to build resilience. A suggested book list will be available. Presented by Elizabeth Lavine Russell, Orange-Ulster BOCES

Going Beyond the Drill: Using YAL to Embrace Difficult Conversations about School Shootings.  The term “school shootings” was added as a new term to the Library of Congress Subject Headings in 1999. Violence portrayed in YAL has grown as reflection of the world in which our students live. These depictions range from self-harm to mass acts of violence including school shootings. There is a long history in YAL of using literature to speak to student experience and to establish meaning making as a result of student engagement with a text in the form of reader response transaction theory. By examining this literature, students can use fiction as a vehicle to express their own concerns and fears. This session will examine perceptions of teachers and librarians about the use of school shooting YAL in an educational setting and will examine a range of YAL published since 1999 with a central plot device of school shootings. The presenters will share a list of over thirty novels that were examined with emphasis on five focus novels for educational purposes for secondary (7-12) students. These novels can be utilized across a variety of settings including both the classroom and our libraries. Presented by Jenna Turner, SUNY Oneonta

Banned Books Programming. In this interactive program, we teach kids about banned books while making it fun. A PowerPoint slide showcases 20 different children's and YA titles. The kids vote on each title determining whether it's banned or not. If the title is banned, we have a discussion as to why it was banned and their opinion. This presentation will show step-by-step instructions on how the program may be replicated. Presented by Elizabeth Thompson, Catskill Public Library

The Quiet Loss Through Censorship.  More than 4,000 books are banned in the United States. When approached, most English teachers stated that their most beloved books to teach are on that list of banned books. When banned, these books sometimes symbolically and sometimes literally are ripped from the hands of young readers. How as future educators can we stand back and allow students to be barred from some of the most arguably influential literature up to today’s time?

Not only is it an educator's job to inspire students, but also to determine the way in which the inspiration may be found. How can we push for the allowance and acceptance of banned books in the classroom? How can we show the relevance and importance of these texts to those who are blinded by the title of a list and what someone else is suggesting? This presentation will showcase thoughts and ideas as to how educators may combat these issues. Presented by Brianna Giglio & Ashlee Caldwell, Education students, Mount Saint Mary College. 


Questions regarding this half-day symposium may be directed toward Jen Park, Assistant Librarian for Access and Outreach Services, at


NOTE:  Mount Saint Mary College will cover the symposium registration cost for any member of the MSMC community - students, faculty or staff.
To register, contact Jen Park no later than March 1, 2020.