July 24, 2024

Story at a glance

  • As some states move to restrict the titles available in school and public libraries, the American Library Association reports a record number of attempts to ban books documented last year.

  • The library org found more than 2,000 unique titles targeted for censorship last year.

  • Ninety percent of the books challenged last year were part of attempts to censor multiple titles, according to the ALA.

Last year saw a record 1,269 attempts to ban or restrict library books and resources, according to the nonprofit American Library Association (ALA).

The 1,269 attempts in 2022 is nearly double the 729 recorded in 2021, and the highest number of attempted book bans documented by the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) in its two decades of cataloging the challenges.

A record 2,571 unique book titles were targeted for censorship in 2022, according to the ALA, up from 1,858 targeted the year prior. The challenge efforts were directed at materials in both school or classroom libraries and in public libraries. 

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona last week stressed the Biden administration’s opposition to book bans with an op-ed in Florida’s The Tampa Bay Times as the state makes headlines over book banning and curriculum changes. Last year, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed legislation requiring school libraries in the state to seek community input on the materials made available to children.

Bills facilitating the restriction of books have been proposed or passed in a number of states, including Arizona, Iowa, Texas, Missouri and Oklahoma, according to the Associated Press.

After 92 books were pulled from school shelves in Florida’s Martin County School District earlier this month, author Jodi Picoult called out Moms for Liberty, a right-wing parental-rights advocacy nonprofit that has supported laws that limit teachers’ authority over what is accessible in schools. 

“A book challenge is a demand to remove a book from a library’s collection so that no one else can read it. 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,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the library organization’s OIF, in a release.

“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,” Caldwell-Stone said.  

The ALA in its new report noted that all but 10 percent of the books challenged last year were part of attempts to censor multiple titles. Forty percent of books were targeted as part of attempts to censor 100 or more books at once. 

“The prevalent use of lists of books compiled by organized censorship groups contributed significantly to the skyrocketing number of challenges and the frequency with which each title was challenged… Prior to 2021, the vast majority of challenges to library resources only sought to remove or restrict access to a single book,” the ALA wrote in its report. 

The nonprofit PEN America has also noted a growing national movement to ban titles in schools, which has prompted advocates and authors to protest the uptick in censorship efforts.

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