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Nashville Public Library encourages readers to sign up for 'I read banned books' card

The NPL's "Freedom to Read" campaign comes as two Tennessee school districts are removing "Maus" and "Walk Two Moons" from their curriculums.
Image: Maus
A person holding the graphic novel "Maus" by Art Spiegelman, in Los Angeles, Calif., on Jan. 27, 2022.Maro Siranosian / AFP via Getty Images file

The Nashville Public Library launched a campaign urging readers to check out "banned books" — a push that comes as two Tennessee school districts are removing critically acclaimed works from their curriculums.

The NPL's "Freedom to Read" effort is seeking to sign up 5,000 new Davidson County residents for library cards in the month ending on May 26.

The newly minted supporters will receive a "limited edition 'Banned Books' library card," according to the NPL.

“I want Nashvillians to know: Nashville Public Library will always respect your Freedom to Read — to independently determine what you read, and don’t read, and to exercise your role in determining what your children read,” NPL Director Kent Oliver said in a statement.

Limited edition 'Banned Books' library card from Nashville Public Library.
Limited edition 'Banned Books' library card from Nashville Public Library.Nashville Public Library

In launching the campaign, NPL specifically mentioned two Tennessee school districts for their recent decisions to remove some high-profile work.

McMinn County Schools in January removed Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel “Maus” from curriculum while Williamson County Schools took away Sharon Creech’s “Walk Two Moons" in February.

"The reason why we specifically mentioned those (school districts) is because it's here, it's happening at home," NPL spokesman Ed Brown told NBC News on Thursday.

"This isn't something theoretically happening in a New York school or a California school. It's a Tennessee school and it's something real, impacting Tennesseans."

The NPL isn't explicitly criticizing those districts, Brown said, but reminding those parents, residents and students that they could pick up "Maus" or "Walk Two Moons" in a Music City branch.

"This campaign is not meant to criticize their decision or push back on it or try to reverse it. That decision was made with the input of parents and the school board and that's how it should be," Brown said.

"Where we're coming from is even though it was a majority opinion of 'Hey, we don't want this here,' there's still a minority of folks who are saying, 'Yeah but I want to read it, I want our children to read it.' And we want to draw attention to the fact that, 'Well, at NPL you can.'"

Representatives for McMinn County Schools and Williamson County Schools could not be immediately reached for comment on Thursday.

In recent weeks, Tennessee has become a focal point of national debate on whether governments should play a bigger role in restricting works available in schools and public libraries.

When Republican state Rep. Jerry Sexton was asked if he’d go as far as physically destroying books he deemed as inappropriate, the lawmaker responded: “I don’t have a clue, but I would burn them.”