Attempts to censor books in libraries rose dramatically in 2022, the American Library Association reported recently. The ALA documented 1,269 demands to censor library books and resources in 2022, an increase of 74% from 729 the previous year. The ALA noted that this covers only challenges reported to their Office for Intellectual Freedom or covered in the press, meaning it is only a partial listing. There were 2,571 unique titles challenged in 2022, up 38% from 2021. School libraries and classrooms were the target of 58% of the censorship attempts, while 41% were public libraries.
The ALA also reported that of books targeted, “the vast majority were written by or about members of the LGBTQIA+ community and people of color.”
The ALA also found that attempts at book banning are increasingly coming from organized groups, seeking to censor long lists of books. They said that “Prior to 2021, the vast majority of challenges to library resources only sought to remove or restrict access to a single book.” However, in 2022, 90% of the books challenged were part of a group of multiple titles. Stunningly, 40% of the books targeted for censorship were part of a list of 100 or more titles. “A book challenge is a demand to remove a book from a library’s collection so that no one else can read it,” Director of the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom Deborah Caldwell-Stone explained. “Overwhelmingly, we’re seeing these challenges come from organized censorship groups that target local library board meetings to demand removal of a long list of books they share on social media. Each attempt to ban a book by one of these groups represents a direct attack on every person’s constitutionally protected right to freely choose what books to read and what ideas to explore. The choice of what to read must be left to the reader or, in the case of children, to parents. That choice does not belong to self-appointed book police.”
Even more disturbingly, the ALA reported, “Every day professional librarians sit down with parents to thoughtfully determine what reading material is best suited for their child’s needs. Now, many library workers face threats to their employment, their personal safety, and in some cases, threats of prosecution for providing books to youth they and their parents want to read.”
Fortunately, the ALA had some good news to point out. They said, “Polling conducted by bipartisan research firms in 2022 showed that voters across the political spectrum oppose efforts to remove books from libraries and have confidence in libraries to make good decisions about their collections.” Or, as President Lessa Kanani'opua Pelayo-Lozada said, “While a vocal minority stokes the flames of controversy around books, the vast majority of people across the nation are using life-changing services that public and school libraries offer. Our nation cannot afford to lose the library workers who lift up their communities and safeguard our First Amendment freedom to read.”