NEW YORK — Attempted book bans and restrictions at school and public libraries continue to surge, setting a record in 2022, according to a new report from the American Library Association released Thursday.
More than 1,200 challenges were compiled by the association in 2022, nearly double the then-record total from 2021 and by far the most since the ALA began keeping data 20 years ago.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” says Deborah Caldwell-Stone, who directs the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. “The last two years have been exhausting, frightening, outrage inducing.”
Thursday’s report not only documents the growing number of challenges, but also their changing nature. A few years ago, complaints usually arose with parents and other community members and referred to an individual book. Now, the requests are often for multiple removals, and organized by national groups such as the conservative Moms for Liberty, which has a mission of “unifying, educating and empowering parents to defend their parental rights at all levels of government.”
Last year, more than 2,500 different books were objected to, compared to 1,858 in 2021 and just 566 in 2019. In numerous cases, hundreds of books were challenged in a single complaint. The ALA bases its findings on media accounts and voluntary reporting from libraries and acknowledges that the numbers might be far higher.
Librarians around the country have told of being harassed and threatened with violence or legal action.
“Every day professional librarians sit down with parents to thoughtfully determine what reading material is best suited for their child’s needs,” ALA President Lessa Kanani’opua Pelayo-Lozada said in a statement. “Now, many library workers face threats to their employment, their personal safety, and in some cases, threats of prosecution for providing books to youth they and their parents want to read.”