Libraries and schools across the country are experiencing unprecedented levels of attempts to ban or remove books from their shelves. The American Library Association documented 1,269 demands to censor library books and resources in 2022, the highest number in more than two decades. Censors targeted 2,571 unique titles in 2022, and of those titles, the vast majority were written by or about members of the LGBTQIA+ community or Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.
But that's only part of the story. According to ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom, 90% of book challenges were included as part of long lists - many with more than 100 different books - that have been compiled by political or activist groups seeking to have large numbers of books removed from public and school libraries all at once.
"These numbers are evidence of a growing, well-organized, conservative political movement whose goals include removing books addressing race, history, gender identity, sexuality, and reproductive health from America's public libraries and school libraries that do not meet their approval." - Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom
It's up to all of us to fight back against censorship. Read on for ways you can get involved to defend the freedom to read in your community.
Join the Unite Against Book Bans Campaign
Unite Against Book Bans is a national initiative to empower readers everywhere to stand together in the fight against censorship. The website contains a full toolkit of free resources to help your community counter efforts to ban books. Sign up to receive updates and action alerts. Every person who joins the campaign is one more voice to speak out when their community is threatened by censorship.
Show Up for Your Library and Library Workers
Most book ban battles are being fought on the local level at library board, school board, and city council meetings. That makes attending these meetings one of the most critical actions you can take to fend off book bans.
Make sure local officials know you trust librarians and library workers and support the library and access to books of all kinds by attending, listening, and speaking out against censorship. Speak as a community stakeholder who supports a parent's right to restrict reading materials for their own child but not for all readers.
As part of its longstanding commitment to defend intellectual freedom in libraries, the American Library Association maintains a database of attempted challenges and bans. If a book challenge takes place in your district, ALA may be able to provide support and more customized resources to oppose the attempted challenge or ban. Reports are confidential unless you give ALA permission to share your story.
Write a Letter to Media or Officials
Make your voice heard by submitting a letter to the editor of your local newspaper or writing directly to your elected officials. Don't worry: no postage required. You can do it all online.
Writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper is great way to elevate your voice in the conversation around book bans. Similarly, public input is very important for school and library board members, trustees, and local and state legislators, especially when opposing new policies or legislation that would censor materials, programs, or curriculum, or punish educators for simply doing their jobs of providing access to information.
Check out the resources at the Unite Against Book Bans website, including talking points and example letters, to help you craft your message.
Read a Banned or Challenged Book
Knowing why a book is controversial is critical when defending it from a being banned, which makes reading it all the more important.
But beyond that, libraries track a lot of statistics, including how frequently books are used in or checked out from the library, or requested via a library lending program like interlibrary loan (ILL). These circulation statistics prove that people want to read these challenged titles and support keeping them in, or adding similar titles to, the collection.
Browse the ALA's list of Frequently Challenged Books, find one that interests you, and check it out from your library! If they don't have it, request it via ILL and ask that your library purchase a copy. And if the book is already checked out, request that a hold be placed for you for when the book returns.
If You're Able, Consider Donating
The ALA's LeRoy C. Merritt Humanitarian Fund supports librarians and library workers facing employment discrimination for defending intellectual freedom. With library workers facing threats to their livelihoods and harassment for simply doing their jobs, there's never been a greater need.
Learn more about the value of America's libraries.
As great democratic institutions, libraries serve people of every age, income level, ethnicity, and ability, providing the full range of information resources needed to live, learn, govern, and work. Learn more.
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