Jaron Gaier read aloud from a passage in a book about administering electric shock to infants to train them to shy away from books and flowers.
(Editor's note: The first paragraph of this story has been edited to remove an incorrect word.)
Aislinn Wegman-Geedy, 10, read about children performing rituals for ancient Egyptian gods from a book.
Others read from their worn copies of the Bible or from books by James Joyce, Galileo Galilee and Kurt Vonnegut.
They all gathered in the Augustana College library to celebrate the American Library Association's Banned Books week, reading selections from their own copies of banned or challenged books.
Gaier, a 21-year-old senior English major, read from Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World," which is a story about a future society that uses genetic engineering to keep social order.
The book, Gaier said, could be revolutionary but shouldn't be banned just because of its sometimes adult themes of sexuality and reproduction.
"It's such a funny book," Gaier said. "I mean, you just laugh, I had to laugh when I was reading it. It was way more poignant in the '30s than it is now. But I could never ban the book because it's funny and because people need to think about this sort of thing."
The Augustana College and St. Ambrose University libraries are hosting events to celebrate the 29th annual Banned Books Week, which began Saturday and runs through Oct. 1.
The Davenport Public Library and Midwest Writing Center also have teamed up to host a reading event.
More than 11,000 books have been challenged since 1982, according to the American Library Association, which sponsors the week.
Despite the national numbers, local school district and public librarians said they have not dealt with many challenges to their material and have had no outright bans in several years.
In the nine years Juli Staszewski has worked as curriculum director in the Davenport Community School District, no one has objected to any books used in the schools. However, the district does have a policy in place that allows community members to object to instructional materials, if concerns do arise, district spokeswoman Dawn Saul said.
Jim Spelhaug, superintendent of the Pleasant Valley School District, said he does not think the district has ever banned a book from its libraries.
"Over the years, there have certainly been requests to do so," Spelhaug said. "We had a book reconsideration over ‘The Misfits' several years ago. In that instance, the board decided the book was not appropriate for an elementary read-aloud, a whole class activity, but the book was not banned from library usage."
Bettendorf Community School District spokeswoman Celeste Miller said the book "The Chocolate War" by Robert Cormier was challenged about 17 years ago but not banned.
Tami Finley, children's librarian and interim director of the Bettendorf Public Library, said she didn't think people who challenged the books always wanted to see them banned.
"The typical scenario is, they come in and talk to us about a book that they think is inappropriate, and most of the time it's about where we have the book catalogued," Finley said. "I wouldn't say it happens regularly, but I do think that's probably the thing that has happened most often for me as the children's librarian."
Finley, who has been the children's librarian for 20 years, said she wants to protect the intellectual freedom of the community but is not offended when someone challenges a book.
"I take it pretty seriously in terms of making sure that I'm not jumping on the bandwagon of this patron, I want this to be the best place for the kids," Finley said. "As a public library, we try and represent all points of a situation, and so what one person finds offensive is not necessarily offensive to other people."
Finley said the length of time she has been in the community helps her decide which books should go on her shelves.
"I would not say that I censor things for them, but there are definitely things that I say, ‘This is not a need for our community,'" Finley said.
Kelly Fischbach is director of the Carroll Public Library and also chairs the Intellectual Freedom Committee of the Iowa Library Association.
"I've been the chairman for two years, and we've just had hardly a handful of challenges that have come to our attention," Fischbach said. "We've only had three books challenged in the last year."
There may have been challenges that did not make it all the way to the state level, but Fischbach said she doesn't know of a successfully banned book in Iowa for at least the past decade.
"I think a lot of it is that we do have such tight budgets, especially in school libraries, that librarians are reading reviews very thoroughly and just buying books that they can afford," Fischbach said. "When you used to have more money to buy more books, you might get some of those more objectionable books."
The Intellectual Freedom Committee helps people who challenge books as well as librarians and administrators who have to deal with a challenge, and Fischbach said libraries need that kind of support.
"I've been a librarian for 27 years now, and I've only had one incident of a challenge," Fischbach said."It's kind of scary when someone walks in the door to do that."
Nancy Youngbauer, a media specialist and teacher librarian at Alan Shepard Elementary School in the North Scott School District, said she hadn't seen a ban or challenge at the elementary level in the 11 years she's been working in the district.
"I don't think it's as likely to happen at this level," Youngbauer said.
For Youngbauer, finding books to put in her library that are appropriate for second-graders and engaging for sixth-graders can be difficult.
"The thing is, we don't have a fourth-grade section or a third-grade section. We have what we call the easy books, and then fiction," she said. "So, I feel like I have to be careful that I don't put anything out there that isn't appropriate for elementary students, but yet, give them a good variety."
Sometimes, this means keeping books with adult topics out of the general collection of the library.
"Some of those books are just kind of on the edge of being a young adult book," Youngbauer said. "So for some sixth-graders, they're great and you'd like to have them in their library, but maybe they're about suicide and you don't want a fourth-grader to pick up that book."
Teachers can get around this issue by having guided reading groups, which allow students in the district to check out books for class from the library that aren't available in the general collection.
Although Gaier said he couldn't identify with wanting to ban a book, he was glad that 10-year-old Wegman-Geedy had gone home before he read from his book.
"I'm sensitive about kids hearing really violent sort of things, and I was kind of reading something about babies being tortured," Gaier said. "I wouldn't ever ban it, I couldn't ever understand someone really banning anything on a widespread level. Maybe I could understand parents saying, ‘Shouldn't you be reading something else?'"
Kay Luna and Steven Martens contributed to this story.