LGBT History Month

Celebrate the rich history of the LGBT community this October! The University Library collects and provides access to materials related to queer identity, history, and culture.

The University Library faculty and staff are proud to participate in SSU’s Safe Zone program. We are committed to making the Library a safe haven, free from discrimination based on sexual orientation, race, gender, ethnicity, religion or political affiliation.

Some highlighted Library resources:





Gaye LeBaron ‘Gays’ collection – newspaper columns on the history of the community

Outside the Library

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Graphic Novels and Where to Find Them

Our recent Banned Books Week events have led to some questions about where to find graphic novels in the library. We’ve recently added new titles to our collection, tackling topics as diverse as a memoir about growing up with a future serial killer, a comedy of manners set in the Ivory Coast in 1978, and an exploration of the craft of wine-making and managing a vineyard. How can you browse this collection?

  • Check our New Books listings for new additions to the library
  • Many fiction graphic novels are shelved together under the call number PN6790 on the 3rd floor
  • Some nonfiction graphic novels are shelved in other subject areas. A good way to browse through them all in the catalog is to do a subject search for “graphic novels“.

Happy Reading!

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The Most Dangerous Books

Heroes Read Banned Books

Dav Pilkey, 2014

The Office of Intellectual Freedom tracks book challenges in communities across the United States and compiles a yearly list of the most frequently challenged books. Books are challenged most frequently in classrooms and school libraries, and less frequently in colleges and academic libraries. Books can be challenged by people across the political spectrum for reasons ranging from sexually explicit material to racism. All kinds of books are challenged every year, from literary classics to comics to children’s books.

The Top Ten Challenged Books in 2013

  1. Captain Underpants (series) by Dav Pilkey
  2. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  4. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
  5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  6. A Bad Boy Can be Good for a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone
  7. Looking for Alaska by John Green
  8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  9. Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
  10. Bone (series) by Jeff Smith

Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books from 2000-2009 (ALA)

Banned and Challenged Classics (ALA)

Too Graphic? 2014 Banned Books Week Celebrates Challenged Comics (NPR)

Banned Books that Shaped America (

10 Frequently Challenged Books that Everyone Should Read (Paste Magazine)

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Tell Your Story in Words and Pictures: Comics Workshop on Friday

Many comics and graphic novels have been challenged because of the difficult truths they show and tell. Come to the library on Friday and find out how easy – and powerful – it is to tell your own story through cartooning.

All skill levels welcome – no experience necessary! The workshop will consist of exercises in character design, composition and storytelling. You will have the chance to create your own short handmade comic book and show off your work. For those in search of a wider audience, we will also discuss different means of publication and distribution.

Friday, September 26, 1pm-3pm
Schulz 2016A

Hope to see you there!

A selection of books on cartooning available through the library:

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Censorship in the United States

Books cannot be killed by fire. Books are weapons in the war of ideas.

Poster published by the United States Government Printing Office, 1942

In the United States we often hold up our First Amendment rights as a foundational liberty, something that defines us as a nation. But is the freedom of speech and publication really as secure as we think? Throughout history books, films, plays, newspapers, and other media have been routinely, and legally, banned and censored in the US, and limits on access to information are still prevalent today.

In the early days of the US, the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights weren’t necessarily understood to extend to municipalities and states. It was perfectly legal for all kinds of materials and performances to be banned in individual cities and states. Censorship was also routinely practiced through the mail, and this was enshrined into federal law in 1873 with the passage of the Comstock Law, which banned the circulation of materials deemed obscene or immoral. The city of Boston became so known for its harsh censorship laws that the phrase “banned in Boston” become associated with anything risque, which, as you might imagine, sometimes had the effect of drastically increasing sales elsewhere.

Despite the First Amendment, the federal government has also censored the press at various points in US history, especially during wartime. This censorship was usually political and was related to perceived threats to national security. Antiwar journalists were arrested frequently during World War I and the subsequent Red Scare, and the government censored movie scripts and books during World War II and the early Cold War.

It wasn’t until the 1925 Gitlow v. New York Supreme Court decision that the reach of the Bill of Rights, including the right to freedom of the press, was extended to the states. This was the first major First Amendment case that the American Civil Liberties Union argued before the Supreme Court. Between 1953 and 1969, under the Warren Court, many First Amendment cases were argued which extended the right to freedom of speech and of the press, and limited the ability of any state or city to ban or censor books and other media.

Although we have, over time, solidified the freedom of the press throughout the United States, censorship continues to be practiced in a variety of ways. Contemporary censorship isn’t often enacted by government bodies, but is instead more widely practiced by corporations and non-governmental organizations. Rather than officially banning or censoring materials, we limit their distribution and constrain access.

The most common way that access to books is limited in the United States is through challenges in schools and public libraries. Every year there are hundreds of reports of books being challenged in libraries around the US. Books are challenged for a variety of reasons, including perceived obscenity, inappropriate language, racism, or inappropriateness to a targeted age group. Challenges often happen in isolated circumstances, one parent raising objections to a book in his local library, but sometimes challenges are coordinated nationally or regionally by conservative organizations, especially recently around books that contain content about non-traditional families.

The internet also provides a new avenue for banning and limiting access to information. As recently as 1996 the US Congress attempted to ban “indecent” materials from the Internet with the Communications Decency Act. This act was challenged by the ACLU and struck down by the Supreme Court in 1997, but subsequent laws have limited distribution of and access to internet content in a variety of ways, especially in public libraries. The government isn’t the greatest perpetrator of content restriction on the Internet, though: corporations like Facebook and YouTube have their own obscenity regulations about shared content and these regulations can be even less transparent than those of the government. We’ve also begun to move into an environment where we no longer own our digital content, but only lease files that are hosted by corporations and publishers. This makes it much easier for content to be restricted or unpublished, even after we’ve “purchased” it.

Anytime access to books, articles, music, movies, and other media are restricted, whether by the government or by Amazon, we lose out. Decisions that should be made by individuals about what we want to read, hear, or see are taken out of our hands. Next week is Banned Books Week in the US, a time for us to draw attention to the ways that information is restricted and censored, even today. We hope you’ll join us to learn more about the freedom to read.


Mapping Censorship—A geographic visualization of book challenges documented by the American Library Association and the Kids’ Right to Read Project.

Banned Books that Shaped America—A list of books from the Library of Congress exhibit that have had a profound effect on American life.

Explore Banned Books on Google Books

Banned in the U.S.A.: A Reference Guide to Book Censorship in Schools and Public Libraries [ebook available to SSU only]

From the Palmer Raid to the Patriot Act: A History of the Fight for Free Speech in America by Christopher Finan [ebook available to SSU only]

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Comics, Censorship and Freedom of Expression: Panel Discussion Tuesday!

Comic Books and Graphic Novels have a strange history when it comes to censorship. Frequently dismissed as a lowbrow or juvenile art form, they have also been subjected to the very serious treatment of book burnings and congressional hearings. Even today, with graphic novels regularly winning major book prizes, people fear their impact and seek to regulate their use.

Why do words and images inspire so much fear? What makes them such a powerful mode of communication? Come hear from a panel of experts, and learn about the twisted history of comics censorship and its continued relevance today.

When: Tuesday, September 23rd – 4pm-5:30pm
Where: Schulz, 3001

  • Brian Fies, cartoonist (Mom’s Cancer, Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow, The Last Mechanical Monster)
  • Kathy Bottarini, owner of local comic shop Comic Book Box and 2014 Eisner Awards Judge
  • Heidi LaMoreaux, Director of the Hutchins School of Liberal Studies at SSU

Hope to see you there!

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On Display in the Library: Banned and Censored Musical Artists

Album cover for the Mama's and the Papa's album "If you can believe your eyes and ears" Did you know that some retailers refused to stock the Mamas and the Papas album “If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears” because the front cover showed a toilet? Albums and artists have frequently been challenged throughout the world for reasons as diverse as politics to fear of rock ‘n roll. Examples can be found in our display on the 3rd floor (north). Want to hear the forbidden music? We have it!

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On Display in the Library: Banned and Censored Graphic Novels

In anticipation of Banned Books Week, many of the library displays are focusing on materials that have been challenged, censored or outright banned, highlighting the power and importance of having the freedom to engage with these materials.

persepolis coverThe display case on the second floor highlights graphic novels that have been challenged in schools and libraries in the recent past. Also highlighted are efforts undertaken by students, teachers and librarians to fight back against censorship.

If you’re interested in learning more, take a look at the displays and stay tuned (‘tooned?) for more information on our Banned Books Week events!

Panel Discussion: Comics, Censorship and Freedom of Expression
Tuesday, September 23, 4-5:30pm
Schulz 3001

Create Comics: Tell Your Story in Words and Pictures (workshop)
Friday, September 26, 1-3pm
Schulz 2016A

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On Display in the Library: Banned or Challenged Juvenile and Young Adult Books

Charlotte's WebCharlotte’s Web, published in 1952 is 78th on the best-selling hardcover list; has sold more than 45 million copies and is a recipient of the 1953 Newbery Honor. How did this book end up on frequently challenged book list? This classic of children’s literature has been challenged because passages about the spider dying were criticized as being “inappropriate subject matter for a children’s book.”

What is the difference between a challenge and a banning? A challenge is the attempt to remove material from a curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. A banning is the actual removal of those materials. Take a look at the display on the third floor with more banned or censored books. These titles were taken from the National Council of Teachers of English and the American Library Association.

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On Display in the Library: Banned and Censored Films

Did you know the classic movie King Kong was edited years after its release to comply with strict decency laws? Movies have been frequently challenged throughout history for reasons ranging from “indecency” to political views. Take a look at the display on the 3rd floor (North) for examples of films that have been banned or censored.

Interested in seeing these forbidden films? You can check them out from the library and celebrate the freedom to make up your own mind about them!

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