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Austin Public Library hosts 'Banned Camp' to read and discuss challenged books

"Banned Camp" is a summer program hosted by Austin Public Library and BookPeople, which includes multiple events a week for kids, teens and adults to take part in.

AUSTIN, Texas — There's been a lot of talk about school library books in Texas the past year. Some of those book certain people believe should be banned for certain age groups.

Now, the Austin Public Library is meeting that controversy head-on with a new summer program called “Banned Camp.”

“I can’t tell you how many names we went through before we finally settled on Banned Camp,” smiled Kathleen Houlihan, with the Austin Public Library. “But then when we found it, we all kind of gave a cheer because it is perfect for Austin and it is perfect for this series.”

Banned Camp is a summer program with multiple events a week involving reading and discussing banned books. There are different events for kids, teens and adults to take part in to read these books, which Houlihan said offer important perspectives.

“A lot of the stories that are being banned right now and challenged are actually the stories of people who are, people of the global majority, queer people,” said Houlihan. “And those people, these are the people of our country.”

The library partnered with the BookPeople to make Banned Camp happen.

Not only have they had authors of challenged books at Banned Camp events, but they’re also highlighting local students who have taken action, like some high school students from Leander ISD, where some books were removed from classroom libraries last year.

“Coming up next week, Austin Public Library is hosting some of the teens from the Vandergrift Banned Book Club to have a workshop for teens,” said Megan Goel of BookPeople

Since the program started about three weeks ago, they have had dozens of participants at Banned Camp events. They had more than 70 people at an event with an author and more than 40 people at a kids story time event.

“Books really help us explore new ideas and connect to others in ways that we've never expected,” said Goel.

Rather than watching books disappear, as more books become banned and challenged, they hope more people will read them to expand their knowledge and understanding.

“You know, voices shouldn't be erased because they are providing a unique and valuable perspective through the stories they are sharing,” said Goel.

Banned Camp is just one way these two librarians think they can start a conversation around important topics and encourage people to take in other viewpoints through stories.

"Pick up some of these books, look at the banned and challenged list and find out for yourself," said Houlihan.

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