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Hattie Berke: "Reading actually gives me more of an open-minded opinion on things and has helped teach me how to approach people in different situations"

Hattie Berke sits in a large wooden chair in a green sleeved baseball tee in front of a large wall of books.
Caoilinn Goss
/
KBIA

Hattie Berke spoke with the Missouri on Mic team at the Adair County Public Library in May. She works there, and she's also a full-time student at Truman State University studying anthropology and Spanish.

She spoke about her love of books and reading, and about some of her experiences with book banning.

Missouri on Mic is an oral history and journalism project documenting stories from around the state in its 200th year.

Hattie Berke: Probably one of my favorite books of all time is The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. It's been banned in a lot of places, and it's actually trying to get banned at my high school currently.

I think in the last few years there's been a wave of book banning and just trying to restrict people's access to books in the whole country in the last few years, but I think it's it really hit our library at home – we had a patron come in and saw one of the books on display in the teen graphics section, and [they] thought it was offensive and inappropriate.

We do have a system for books that get reported, but we haven't used that in years because, you know, if you have a book, you don't like it, just don't read it.

"I just think that understanding everyone's story, understanding their point of view, and the influences that go into all their decisions and choices are extremely important – especially before you judge them."
Hattie Berke

But this became a problem, and so, this gentleman came and spoke to a few of our board meetings, and, you know, we gave him the five minutes he had a talk, and I think it really rustled the community in a few different ways.

He suggested – I don't know if it was him, but like his, you know, the people who supported him – suggested that we form a committee of three Republicans and three Democrats to look through all our books, and “okay” them.

And I think everyone on library staff was very excited when the Board shut them down on that idea.

We do try to make all of our library books accessible to everyone, and we want them available to everyone who might need them, might want them, who's interested.

If you're not interested in a book, you're free not to pick it up. You've no pressure to pick it up, but it should be out there for people who want them – no matter the age, or gender or questioning – like it should be open to everyone.

Information… I feel the right of information is very important, and I feel like that applies to bookstores, to schools, to libraries, everywhere. So, I think it's important just to preserve that for our future generations.

I really love adult fantasy, especially like darker fantasy. Anything with magic that doesn't seem like day-to-day life. It's really exciting to me.

But I also really love seeing other people's perspective in the world. It's probably why I'm an anthropologist.

I just think that understanding everyone's story, understanding their point of view, and the influences that go into all their decisions and choices are extremely important – especially before you judge them.

So, I think that reading actually gives me more of an open-minded opinion on things and I can – it has helped teach me how to approach people in different situations open-mindedly and look for everything I can before I make a judgement.

Grace Pankey is a student at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. She's a member of the Missouri on Mic team.