The smallest library in Maine is stocking its shelves with banned books.
If you’ve been paying attention to local news, you know the wave of book bans sweeping the nation isn’t slowing down—but people are pushing back. PEN America continues to speak out against censorship; a professor has offered to teach Maus to all students affected by its ban; the Authors Guild has put together an action kit to fight book bans; and now, as the Bangor Daily News reports, Matinicus Island Library, the smallest library in Maine, is specifically stocking frequently banned books to bring to its community.
Matinicus Isle, roughly 22 miles out to sea, has a population of about one hundred people, and according to residents, it has a tolerant, live-and-let-live mentality appreciative of community members’ differences—so it makes intuitive sense the library would choose to preserve banned books, which disproportionately discuss race, American history, discrimination and LGBTQ+ issues. The library’s collection of banned books includes classics like The Bluest Eye, Catch-22 and To Kill A Mockingbird, as well as newer books like And Tango Makes Three, a children’s book about two male penguins at Central Park Zoo who raised a chick together—which is also one of the most banned books in America.
“We are buying banned books in order to publicly push back against the impetus to ban books,” Eva Murray, who helped start the library—and who is also a writer, baker, EMT and founder of the Matinicus recycling program—told the Bangor Daily News. “To say, ‘If you don’t want it in your library, we want it in ours.”
The library is a community project, which has no primary librarian. Patrons borrow books using the honor system, and log what books they took; the library is also the island’s first free Wi-Fi hotspot. There has been no controversy in Matinicus about the library’s new emphasis on banned books. “I am every day surprised how much people respect and honor and appreciate and support this [library],” said Murray. “That’s the good thing about starting a library out here. You can do good without having to ask for a lot of permissions first.”