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Utah couple creates their own ‘Little Banned Book Library’

Oct 5, 2023, 8:38 PM | Updated: Oct 6, 2023, 6:11 am

WASHINGTON TERRACE, Weber County — A Utah couple is challenging book bans by creating their own library of banned books.

In recent years, some public and school libraries throughout the state have reported an uptick in books being removed from their shelves. They were challenged for material some viewed as inappropriate or sensitive.

Utah book challenges by the numbers: A KSL investigation

“Especially in the last few years, book bannings and challenges in public and school libraries have been on the rise and every time I heard about one, I just kind of bristled internally,” Tom Hamilton said.

He and his wife, Hilary decided they wanted to make a statement on the issue.

“The parts that would really get to me were books that were about LGBTQ people or people of color, racial issues that were just trying to be swept under the rug and forgotten by a lot of politicians and certain parent groups as well,” Tom said.

The couple said they have family members who are in the community. They said they want people to have access to books that feature different experiences or backgrounds.

“I’m a humanitarian in my soul,” Hilary Hamilton said. “I just firmly believe change is quiet and change builds, but you need to be able to encourage people to find that change themselves.”

They settled on building a little library in the front yard, where members of the community can borrow and exchange books for free.

“This is a great way for people to explore topics that they normally wouldn’t think of, or explore topics outside of their realm, but it is doing so in a way that allows them to find it themselves,” Hilary said.

All of the books available are banned or challenged somewhere in the U.S. Their selection includes the title, “Sold.”

“It’s about a girl from Nepal that’s sold into sex slavery,” Hilary said.

According to a KSL June report, the book was reported by six Utah school districts.

Other titles include, “Maus,” a graphic novel retelling of the Holocaust, “Antiracist Baby,” “What Girls Are Made Of,” and “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”

The Hamiltons post their book selection online and explain why it’s been challenged or banned.

“Our goal would be to bring to everyone’s attention, the books that you may even see every day, somebody out somewhere is trying to get it removed from the public view,” Tom said.

He said not all books belong in every library.

“I wouldn’t expect a book that details violence or anything overtly sexual to be in an elementary school library,” Tom said. “They wouldn’t care about it in the first place and probably would go over their heads in general but, for public libraries and high schools, I believe that at that point, you’re more than capable to see the world and deal with any discomfort you may feel from reading those books and expand your worldview.”

He and his wife want children, including their own, to learn about other people’s experiences or backgrounds when they’re the right age.

“Our son, he’s 3 and we want him to grow up to see all people regardless of sexual orientation or color as equals to himself and everybody else,” Tom said.

The library has been up for one month. They’ve seen a steady trickle of adults and children.

The only thing they censor is any violent or rude behavior.

“I didn’t want anyone to come attack the house, attack the library,” Hilary said. “He told me that a camera would be put up.”

They said they’ll keep their honors system library going while discussions on banning books continue in town halls, school boards and congressional hearings.

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Utah couple creates their own ‘Little Banned Book Library’