Listen and Learn

Celebrate Banned Books Week

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Last March, when I headed to Beijing for another teaching stint on behalf of Whatcom Community College, my wallet held an international Visa card, a recent “upgrade” from my conventional card.

Little did I realize this card would prove almost useless, while my sweet Whatcom County Library System (WCLS) card became priceless—my real international passport.

With my library card I explored Alaska, the Middle East, London, and New York.

Here’s how. Because Beijing is a vast metropolis, travel time can be extremely long and tiring. Visiting friends in another part of the city sometimes required as many as three hours each way on public transportation. And unlike in America, Chinese people typically do not strike up conversations on the bus or subway.

What might seem an interminable ride in silence became an adventure while listening to an audiobook. While most of my fellow passengers were glued to their phones, I was free to look around, observe my surroundings, smile, notice landmarks and generally still be connected to my environment. I was in heaven.

At the school where I taught, a small cadre of four foreign teachers (two Russian, one Armenian, one American) shared space with four Chinese residents, all tucked amicably into a large open space with very little privacy.

We often heard conversations in many languages and the shouted results of World Cup games. However, a surprising amount of intrigue surrounded my enthusiasm for and dedication to listening to audiobooks, which I could download onto my phone (assuming it was one of those rare moments of connectivity). Several teachers asked if they could also listen to my stories.

A few of my closer friends even begged to borrow my library card to get books or information for themselves. Sadly, this was impossible and I regretfully explained that my WCLS library card is uniquely my own and not transferable.

Much has been made of the “Great Firewall of China,” which blocks and also controls what people can access through the Internet.

Admittedly, much of what flies around in cyberspace is trashy or maybe downright dangerous. That is why, during the annual Banned Books Week—which continues through Sat., Sept. 29—we take time to examine who decides what makes something objectionable to the point that it is forbidden. And why, after so many centuries of trying to control what people do or think, have we not learned that it is the “forbidden fruit” that attracts the most attention?

Thank you, libraries, librarians and citizens who have fought to ensure that public access to ideas and privacy of information about what we read have been preserved for each generation. Let us not take this hard-won freedom for granted.

I, for one, most certainly do not.    

Trish Navarre is a board member of the Whatcom County Library Foundation

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1:00pm|Bellingham Senior Activity Center

Endangered Species Curator's Tour

1:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher Building

Sedro-Woolley Farmers Market

3:00pm|Hammer Heritage Square

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Creekside Open Mic

6:30pm|South Whatcom Library

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7:00pm|Village Books

Brian Dean Trio

7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Climate Change and Forests

7:00pm|Sustainable Living Center

Modified documentary and Panel Discussion

7:30pm|Pickford Film Center

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Parkinson's Dance Class

10:00am|Ballet Bellingham

Fall Craft & Antique Show

10:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Komo Kulshan Ski Swap

4:00pm|Bloedel Donovan

Jazz Jam

5:30pm|Illuminati Brewing

Camber Exhcange

5:30pm|1820 Scout Place

Falling Out of the Box Jewelry Challenge

6:00pm|Jansen Art Center

Squash Celebration

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Chuckanut Radio Hour

6:30pm|Whatcom Community College

Balkan Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Nooksack River Travelogue

7:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

The Duck Variations

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

The Skriker

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Side Show

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

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10:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Komo Kulshan Ski Swap

4:00pm|Bloedel Donovan

The Duck Variations

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

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7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

The Skriker

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Side Show

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

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Books and Bites

1:00pm|Blaine Library

Food Not Bombs

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Bread and Puppet Theater

5:00pm|Laurel Park

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6:00pm|Fairhaven Library

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6:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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Pride and Prejudice

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A Night with Miguel de Hoyos

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