Record number of books targeted in complaints last year, library association says
Published in News & Features
A record number of books received objections in the U.S. last year, with many of the complaints coming against works involving LGBTQ content or race, the American Library Association said.
A new report by the association found more than 2,500 books were included in more than 1,200 complaints, which aimed to inspire bans or other limitations at schools and public libraries.
“Every day professional librarians sit down with parents to thoughtfully determine what reading material is best suited for their child’s needs,” Lessa Kanani’opua Pelayo-Lozada, the president of the American Library Association, said in a statement Thursday.
“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.”
The number of complaints in 2022 nearly doubled the previous year’s amount, with some of the challenges naming hundreds of titles. The total number of books was also up from 1,858 in 2021 and 566 in 2019.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director the library association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. “The last two years have been exhausting, frightening, outrage inducing.”
Many of the challenges came from conservatives, with those complaints including Maia Kobabe’s “Gender Queer” and The New York Times’ slavery-focused “The 1619 Project,” according to Caldwell-Stone. Liberal objections, meanwhile, included Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” due to racist wording in the text, she said.
Florida, Texas, Arizona and Oklahoma are among the states to propose or pass book regulations. Last year, the New York Public Library pushed back on the trend with its “Books for All” campaign, making widely banned titles available on its free, electronic reading platform, SimplyE.
“These recent instances of censorship and book banning are extremely disturbing and amount to an all-out attack on the very foundation of our democracy,” NYPL President Anthony W. Marx told the Daily News at the time.
“Knowledge is power; ignorance is dangerous and breeds hate and division. Since their inception, public libraries have worked to combat these forces simply by making all perspectives and ideas accessible to all, regardless of background or circumstance.”
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