The number of attempts to ban or restrict books in school and public libraries during the first eight months of 2022 is anticipated to exceed the number in all of 2021, according to the American Library Association’s early data.
Between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31 of this year, the ALA said it documented 681 attempts to curtail library resources and 1,651 unique titles were targeted. By comparison, the association reported 729 censorship attempts, targeting 1,597 books in 2021, which was the highest number since it began collecting the lists two decades ago.
As Banned Book Weeks marks its 40th year “celebrating the right to read,” many librarians, booksellers, educators, parents and students see the increase as a serious concern and are pushing back.
“The unprecedented number of challenges we’re seeing already this year reflects coordinated, national efforts to silence marginalized or historically underrepresented voices and deprive all of us – young people, in particular – of the chance to explore a world beyond the confines of personal experience,” said ALA President Lessa Kanani’opua Pelayo-Lozada, in a statement.
Mindy Freeman and her daughter, Lily Freeman, a junior at Central Bucks East High School, have been protesting the school district’s newly enacted library policy, which they say amounts to censorship.
“If we’re going to censor books that offer a mirror into people’s lives, we’re doing everyone a disservice,” Mindy Freeman said. “It interferes with kids’ knowledge,” added Lily, and “creates fear.”
With many of the contested books involving LGBTQ+ and other minority characters and topics, Lily, who is transgender, said, “I feel since the pandemic more people are afraid of what they don’t know. Banning just harms everyone.”
The school district’s policy says books that are not “age-appropriate” and/ or contain “sexualized content” are among those that should not be permitted in school libraries.
The Bucks County Free Library is recognizing Banned Books Week with a selection of some its staff’s favorite targeted titles. Among them are All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls, The Giver by Lois Lowry and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.
“We serve a diverse community,” said Charlie Lasorda, a manger-in-training at the Doylestown branch, “and we have several copies of all the contested books available.” The full list can be found at buckslib.org.
“Library professionals trust individuals to make their own decisions about what they read and believe,” the ALA said. The nationwide association is asking “readers everywhere” to join with the Unite Against Book Bans campaign and “fight against censorship.”
A wide variety of books targeted at adults, including Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby are featured in a display at the Doylestown Bookshop.
A children’s display holds works by Judy Blume, Alex Gino’s Melissa, and Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone. “I Read Dangerously” says the sign above the books.
"As always, we are committed to providing books for our community, ensuring we are getting books into the hands of readers,” said bookstore owner, Glenda Childs, in an email.
Banned Books Week was created in 1982, prompted by surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries.
Besides the ALA, the week is co-sponsored by organizations directly associated with reading and learning, such as the American Booksellers for Free Expression, Amnesty International USA, American Society of Journalists and Authors, PEN America and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and many others.