According to the ALA (American Library Association), between January 1 and August 30 of 2023, there were 695 attempts to censor library materials and services including documented challenges to 1,915 unique titles. That is an increase of a whopping 20% over the same time period in 2022, which, at that time, had the highest number of challenges since ALA first started tracking challenges 20 years ago. These challenges are happening all across the county, in public libraries, school libraries, and even in academic libraries. The VAST majority of the works challenged were either written by or about people of color or people identifying on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. In Virginia alone, there have been 14 challenges, with 356 titles identified in those attempts.
Here’s one example of what has happened here in Virginia: “A local pressure group called “Clean Up Samuels” held two book-banning BBQ events (“there will be beer and babysitting”) to pass out “Request for Reconsideration Forms” regarding Samuels Public Library’s book collection. Their efforts focused on children’s and young adult materials with representation of the lived experiences of those who are LGBTQIA+. Over 500 forms were completed for nearly 150 unique titles. At county board of supervisor meetings, group members called for the elimination of the library’s funding over the availability of And Tango Makes Three, Pride Colors, Prince and Knight, I Love You Because I Love You, Plenty of Hugs, and other LGBTQIA+ titles. In June, the county board of supervisors voted to withhold 75 percent of the budget until the library takes action “to protect our children from sexually explicit material and ensure parents have control over their children’s reading choices.” The library director resigned in August.” (ALA Book Ban Data)
Starting last year, book challenges changed, not only in the amount, but also in the style. Prior to 2020, most of the challenges to books were a single person (usually a parent) objecting to a single title. Last year, 90% of the reported book challenges were related to multiple titles − and of those challenges, 40% were an attempt to remove or restrict more than 100 books all at once. Conservative parent groups such as Moms for Liberty account for the vast majority of these challenges, but that does not mean it is a large number of people doing this. During the 2021-2022 school year, ELEVEN people were responsible for 60% of ALL book challenges across the USA.
These challenges have even led to multiple states introducing legislature that would imprison librarians for carrying challenged books. For example, Arkansas introduced a measure that says both school and public librarians, as well as teachers, can be jailed for up to six years or fined $10,000 if they distribute what someone considers obscene or harmful texts. That measure took effect Aug. 1.
So, what can YOU do to fight this attack on books? READ BANNED BOOKS! Take a look at the list above and find one (or two, or thirteen!) books to read. Check them out from your local library! Tell your librarians THANK YOU! Email, write, or call your local representatives and let them know you believe in the freedom to read. If you hear of a challenge to a book in your area, go stand up for that book. Make it known to your friends, to your social media followers, that book banning is NOT OKAY. For even more ideas of what you can do, go to ALA; you can even find downloadable media, like what I used in this post, to use on your own social media. The main thing I hope you take from this is, DO SOMETHING! LET FREEDOM READ!