Freedom to Read Foundation - 2020 Banned Books Week Grant Recipients

For Immediate Release
Tue, 09/08/2020


Yumeka Brown

Program Officer

Freedom to Read Foundation

American Library Association


The Freedom to Read Foundation (FTRF) awarded six $1,000 grants to nonprofit institutions in support of the 2020 Banned Books Week events (September 27-October 3, 2020), an annual event celebrating the Freedom to Read. The grants, a project of FTRF’s Judith F. Krug Memorial Fund, supports a wide range of read-outs, displays, discussions, performances, and other educational initiatives that will engage communities in dialogues about censorship and the freedom to read. The recipients were among 40 grant requests from high schools, libraries, public and private universities and other groups.

Cambria County Library

The Cambria County Library (Johnstown, Pennsylvania) will be celebrating Banned Books Week with events that will center on the history of the Beat Generation and banned books. This year will mark the 65th anniversary of the Six Gallery reading in San Francisco, where one of the most infamous banned books — “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg — was read for the first time. To celebrate this milestone, the library welcomes Jami Cassady, daughter of cultural and literary icon Neal Cassady, who will present a virtual lecture for the library. The celebration will also feature a history presentation, a banned book reading and a reading challenge through Beanstack (a virtual platform). Because of the COVID-19 virus, the library plans to host all activities online.

Center for Transformative Action/Ithaca City of Asylum

The Center for Transformative Action (CTA) /Ithaca City of Asylum (Ithaca, New York) will celebrate Banned Books Week with a free live-streamed presentation and conversation by two internationally acclaimed cartoonists who have paid a high personal price for their work, a cartooning workshop and contest for children in summer programs in libraries in Ithaca and Pittsburgh, and a virtual exhibit of political cartoons on the website of Tompkins County Public Library in Ithaca. Organized by CTA’s Ithaca City of Asylum (ICOA) project, the celebration is a collaboration between ICOA, City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, Tompkins County Public Library and other organizations.

The featured cartoonists are Pedro X. Molina, who fled Nicaragua in 2018 and is now ICOA’s writer-in-residence, and Rob Rogers, who was fired that same year by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for his cartoons critical of the president. Both will work virtually with children in library summer programs, judge a cartooning contest and curate an online exhibit in addition to presenting their work and taking questions in a free online event.

The event will replace Ithaca City of Asylum’s annual in-person celebration of Banned Books Week, which has typically included readings, performances or panel discussions. It will be ICOA’s first live online event and first substantive programmatic collaboration with City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, a fellow member of the International Cities of Refuge Network and an important cultural institution in its community. 

Both City of Asylum programs provide refuge for persecuted writers from around the world and advocate for freedom of expression in the creative arts. “Voices of Freedom” is normally ICOA’s main fundraiser for the year, and a representative will make a pitch for donations. 

Central Washington University Libraries

Central Washington University Libraries (Ellensburg, Washington) is dedicating Banned Books Week 2020 to raising up LGBTQIA+ voices and stories in literature. The libraries will be working with campus and community partners to create and offer programming around LGBTQIA+ literature, including a moderated panel discussion featuring librarians, students, and community members; an author talk; a book club discussion; and book giveaways. The libraries will also create additional programming that will highlight banned books with a LGBTQIA+ theme, such as book displays and a reading bingo of suggested readings centered around the theme.

Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library

Since its founding in 2009, the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library (Indianapolis, Indianapolis) (KVML) has championed the legacy of banned author Kurt Vonnegut and the principles of free expression and common decency by operating a museum and lending library and by offering unique programming. One important annual KVML event is Banned Books Week. This week features a variety of themed events artistic exhibitions, lectures, panel discussions and always a “prisoner” jailed in the museum for the week behind a wall of banned books.

To date, KVML’s Banned Books Week has reached 3,500 participants, and its Banned Books Week programs have earned international recognition. In 2020, KVML will celebrate Banned Books Week by offering a series of events focused on civic engagement and youth writing. Events will include youth writing workshops, a reading of the original play “Kurt Vonnegut: WordPlay”, a reception for a women’s suffrage 100th anniversary traveling exhibit and discussions about censorship and freedom of expression.

Manor High School Library

Manor High School Library (Manor, Texas) will celebrate Banned Books Week by showing how social taboos change over time and how book banning events reflect the tensions that existed in society at a moment in time. This is envisioned as a living timeline that visitors will "walk" through on a self-guided basis, either physically or online, with one banned book selected for each decade from 1930 to 2020, for a total of 10 stops in all. In addition to the main exhibit, there will be games and contests: name the pictured author, eyebrow raising contest, limerick contests, drawing contests and a book walk (similar to a cake walk).

Maricopa Public LIbrary

The Maricopa Public Library (Maricopa, Arizona) is planning a community Banned Books Week event in order to celebrate this year's theme, "Censorship is a Dead End," as well as bring awareness to the city and patrons on the importance of intellectual freedom. The event will include a “Mystery Hint Search” in collaboration with local businesses and a “Murder Mystery of Banned Book Characters Party” for those who complete the puzzles. All players of the final mystery game will represent favorite banned or challenged characters. In a two-pronged way, Maricopa Public Library will plan and host the event as well as create displays in the building to feature Banned Books Week. In addition to the event, the Maricopa Public Library will also create educational and informative multimedia displays that will initially focus on Banned Books Week and will grow to become a Maricopa Public Library staple.

The displays will consist of a mobile display unit and dedicated screen that allows patrons to explore the facts surrounding banned/challenged material. Each multi-media display will contain links to additional information through the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom, games, questionnaires and multiple copies of challenged material and additional take-home information.