School and public libraries across the U.S. are currently experiencing an unprecedented increase in book censorship attempts.
In 2022, the American Library Association (ALA) documented 2,571 unique book titles that faced censorship challenges, an increase of more than 60% from the previous year and the largest number since ALA began tracking censorship attempts more than 20 years ago. This year’s numbers are on track to surpass 2022 totals: Between January 1 and August 31, 2023, ALA reported 695 attempts to censor library materials and services and documented challenges to 1,915 unique titles—that's a 20% increase from the same reporting period in 2022.
Many of the books being challenged and removed focus on LGBTQIA+ issues; document the experiences of marginalized communities; and are written by Black, BIPOC, and LGBTQIA+ authors. By removing these works from public and school library shelves, a vocal minority is essentially erasing their stories—stories that could allow some readers to feel accepted and seen and others to experience new broadening perspectives.
Are you frustrated by these attempts to censor books? Here are five steps you can take now to stand with libraries and protect the freedom to read.
- Follow news and social media in your community and state to keep apprised of organizations working to censor library or school materials.
- Show up for library workers at school or library board meetings and speak as a library advocate and community stakeholder who supports a parent’s right to restrict reading materials for their own child but not for all.
- Help provide a safety net for library professionals as they defend intellectual freedom in their communities by giving to the LeRoy C. Merritt Humanitarian Fund.
- Educate friends, neighbors, and family members about censorship and how it harms communities. Share information from Banned Books Week.
- Join the Unite Against Book Bans movement and visit our Fight Censorship page to learn what you can do to defend the freedom to read in your community.
ALA offers resources to assist library workers and library advocates in responding to and supporting others facing such challenges. If you’re experiencing a book challenge, please report it to ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom and let them know if you need assistance.
Since it's Giving Tuesday, please consider a donation to ALA. For almost 150 years, librarians have come together through ALA with the sole purpose of improving library services for Americans. The association is at the forefront of the fight to protect libraries and everyone’s freedom to read, actively advocating and educating in defense of intellectual freedom—the rights of library users like you to read, seek information, and speak freely as guaranteed by the First Amendment.
If you’re unable to give a monetary donation to ALA, please give back to your library at the local level by becoming a library advocate or trustee, joining a Friends group, and by simply spreading the word to everyone about all the wonderful—and essential—things that your library does every day for the community. Please help to ensure that these cherished institutions are available for generations of readers in the future.
Photo: John Ramspott, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons