An organization’s successful push to temporarily ban more than 50 books from school libraries in Carroll County prompted the Enoch Pratt Free Library to run an opposing advertisement.
Earlier this week, Enoch Pratt disseminated a message in a local paper and to its X (formerly Twitter) social media account after Moms for Liberty, a conservative parents’ group, rallied at a school board meeting demanding books addressing gender and sexuality being taken off the shelves.
The ad, which appeared in the Carroll County Times, said the library system “stands against censorship and supports everyone’s right to intellectual freedom. As the State Library Resource Center, anyone in Maryland can get a a Pratt library card.” They added: “The Pratt collection contains all 10 of the most challenged books in America.”
Meghan McCorkell, the chief of marketing communications and strategy for Enoch Pratt, said, “Essentially, we have our own FedEx department downstairs, and we have books that travel over the Bay Bridge and across the state every single day.”
The ad doesn’t single out young students, either. “There’s a huge need for diverse books throughout all age groups. And those belong on the shelves, and they belong accessible to everyone,” McCorkell said. “We’ve always been supporting people’s rights for equitable access. And so we ran this message in the Carroll County Times knowing that we wanted to be supportive of our librarians in Carroll County.”
McCorkell said the Resource Center — which also provides training to librarians across the entire state — has always believed that parents know what content is appropriate for their children on an individual level, but that limiting another parent’s ability to make that call, or making a book unavailable, can have devastating consequences.
“When you look at the books that Carroll County is looking to ban, a really high number of them feature main characters of color, authors of color, and people from the LGBTQIA+ community. And these are people who need to see themselves reflected in literature,” McCorkell said. She added that children could grow to “hate” reading when they don’t see themselves in the literature they’re consuming, naming Baltimore writer D. Watkins as an example.
Watkins, an award-winning writer of several books and professor at the University of Baltimore, confirmed he hated reading as a child and said it was the reason he was unable to think critically in his early years. Now, he reads between five to 15 books per month.
“Banning books is criminal. We’re robbing children of their own identities, we are prohibiting them from being able to think critically. And what’s even more sad is that the people who advocate for banning books the most, they don’t even read the books they’re trying to ban because they’ve gone off of assumptions,” Watkins said. “An assumption is the lowest form of knowledge.”
Previous reporting from The Banner shows an overwhelming majority of the books singled out are also being challenged across the country. The titles have also been named in challenges in Wicomico, Worcester, Calvert, Somerset and Baltimore counties, but only Carroll has changed its book selection procedure in response.
Enoch Pratt Free Library’s central branch in Baltimore just so happens to be the state library of Maryland, McCorkell said, so though it is a “rarity” for a city’s central library to also serve a state library, it operates like the latter, making any books and resources available with just an electronic card access.
Access with eCard can be obtained online and books are available for digital download. In addition to visiting their local library, residents can have books unavailable in their jurisdiction shipped to them from another county through the state’s interlibrary loans.
This is not the first time Enoch Pratt has run an advertisement against censorship. In the July/August issue of its campus magazine, The Compass, Enoch Pratt’s president and CEO Heidi Daniel wrote a letter advocating for access.
“It is vital that everyone has the opportunity to see themselves reflected in literature,” she wrote. “The light of access is one we are proud to carry.”