Literature Advancing Social Change Focus of Annual Library Scavenger Hunt

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Literature Advancing Social Change Focus of Annual Library Scavenger Hunt

“Words Ignite: The Literature of Activism" is this Year’s Banned Books Celebration

This September, the DC Public Library will raise awareness about the power of books to promote social change with “Words Ignite: The Literature of Activism.” Held in conjunction with Banned Books Week, the Library plans to celebrate the freedom to read, seek and to express ideas, even those considered unorthodox or unpopular. 

“We live in a world where the censorship of ideas, the manipulation of facts and the distortion of truth compromise our ability to make sense of our times,” said Richard Reyes-Gavilan, the executive director of the DC Public Library. “Books, fiction and nonfiction alike, have long been an effective and crucial tool for exposing injustice. Protecting the freedom of expression, the freedom to read and the freedom to espouse unpopular opinions has never been more important.”

As with previous commemorations of Banned Books Week, “Words Ignite: The Literature of Activism” will include a scavenger hunt organized by the Library using books that have been challenged or censored. 

From September 4 to September 30, copies of six books will be hidden around the District at libraries, coffee shops, museums, bookstores and bars. The titles include “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas, “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi, “March: Book One” by Congressman John Lewis and “Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass” by Meg Medina. Each book will have a special edition cover with the text, “I write to represent …” and spine artwork. Hunters who collect all six books will discover a composite design.

Scavenger Hunt clues will be read on WAMU Radio during “Morning Edition” and shared on the DC Public Library and the DC Public Library Foundation’s social media accounts. People who find the books post a photo of the book they found — or themselves with the book — with the hashtag #UncensoredDC. They are then eligible to win a variety of raffle prizes, including a voucher for two tickets to a Politics & Prose ticketed event; a nonalcoholic gift bag from DC Brau and a gift card and bag of coffee from Compass Coffee. Many locations will have several copies of a book. Participants who share tips on where the books might be hidden on social media with the hashtag #hottips will receive a special raffle prizes that include an overnight "Staycation" at the line hotel and a gift certificate for two to Columbia Room.

The American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom, which tracks challenges to library, school and university materials, reports that 354 challenges were filed and 416 titles were banned in American libraries in 2017. A challenge is an attempt to remove material from a school curriculum or library based on the objections of a person or a group. A banning is the removal of those materials. A challenge can request the removal of more than one title. 

According to the ALA, the top three reasons cited for challenges are that the material was considered to be "sexually explicit," the material contained "offensive language," or the materials was "unsuited to any age group," However, in 2015 the ALA noted that more than half of challenged or banned books are written by nonwhite writers or deal with the experience of marginalized groups.  


About the Scavenger Hunt
Scavenger Hunt prizes have been provided by the DC Public Library Foundation, an independent 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization that supports the DC Public Library. The Scavenger Hunt is open to people of all ages. Winners will be contacted by the DC Public Library Foundation through social media to claim their prize. Employees of the DC Public Library are not able to participate in the Scavenger Hunt.