- by Mount Saint Mary College

Mount Saint Mary College hosted the virtual Banned Books Symposium recently, featuring a keynote presentation by John Piche, Outreach Librarian for Heights Libraries in Cleveland, Ohio.

This symposium, for librarians and educators, consisted of small group workshops detailing banned, challenged, or controversial books that may come up in one’s local library or classroom.

Piche’s talk was titled “Defending Discussions: The 1619 Project.” New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project, published in August 2019, almost immediately generated strong opinions. Praise was followed by strong criticism, because the 1619 Project sought to “reframe the legacy of slavery as the dominant factor in American political, cultural, and social spheres,” Piche said.

Piche’s library responded to the interest in the project by launching a 1619 Project discussion group. It became one of the library’s most popular programs. And just like the 1619 Project itself, the program faced a wide variety of challenges, noted Piche, from letters to the editor and social media campaigns calling for the end of the program, to managing unexpected turnout and program logistics.

Attendees then enjoyed concurrent breakout sessions, including “Getting Comfortable with the Uncomfortable” by Alexis McBride, assistant professor of Education at Mount Saint Mary College. 

The symposium was cosponsored by Mount Saint Mary College’s Kaplan Family Library; the Ramapo Catskill Library System; the Southeastern N.Y. Library Resources Council; and the School Library Systems of Dutchess, Orange-Ulster, Sullivan, and Ulster.


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