Book ban attempts in US libraries and schools hit record high in 2023: national library group News
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Book ban attempts in US libraries and schools hit record high in 2023: national library group

The American Library Association (ALA) announced on Thursday that censorship demands and book ban attempts in public libraries and schools hit a record high in 2023. The ALA documented 1,247 demands to ban 4,240 different books. This is a 65 percent increase from 2022, when 2,571 books faced censorship demands. In 17 states, book ban attempts targeted more than 100 titles. The ALA said this is “the highest levels ever documented” by the group.

Public libraries saw a particular increase in censorship demands, with a 92 percent increase from 2022. This made up 46 percent of all book challenges in 2023. Censorship demands in school libraries, which were previously the main focus of book ban attempts, increased by 11 percent.

ALA President Emily Drabinksi criticized the increase in censorship demands and defended the libraries and library professionals that work to promote intellectual freedom, saying:

Every challenge to a library book is an attack on our freedom to read. The books being targeted again focus on LGBTQ+ and people of color. Our communities and our country are stronger because of diversity. Libraries that reflect their communities’ diversity promote learning and empathy that some people want to hide or eliminate. Libraries are vital institutions to each and every community in this country, and library professionals, who have dedicated their lives to protecting our right to read, are facing threats to their employment and well-being.

Of the challenged titles, almost half (47 percent) were books written by LGBTQ+, Black or other marginalized authors, or books that told stories related to those communities. This follows the national trend of conservative groups and legislators targeting diversity initiatives in schools, which has led students to stage walkouts in protest and organize banned book groups.

The ALA said that the surge in censorship demands came from groups and individuals that targeted multiple books at the same time. One of the major groups advocating for books bans, Moms for Liberty, has been designated a far-right extremist anti-government group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a national civil rights organization. In addition to organized book ban campaigns, Moms for Liberty’s book rating system and a review site from a former member drive individuals to make censorship demands.

The new data report comes amid a pushback against censorship efforts. Organized attempts to ban books have prompted a number of groups to start anti-censorship efforts, with many people citing opposition to Moms for Liberty in particular. A federal judge blocked portions of Iowa’s book ban law in December and an appeals court ruled in January that a Texas law targeting “sexually explicit” material likely violates the Constitution.

Despite this, ALA officials warn that censorship demands will continue, with Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, saying, “The reports from librarians and educators in the field make it clear that the organized campaigns to ban books aren’t over, and that we must all stand together to preserve our right to choose what we read.”