Library association reports attempts to ban record books in 2022


In many cases, hundreds of books have been disputed in a single complaint.

A stack of disputed books appears at the Utah Pride Center in Salt Lake City on December 16, 2021. AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File

NEW YORK (AP) — Attempts to ban and restrict books in school and public libraries continue to rise, setting a record high in 2022, according to a new report from the American Library Association released Thursday.

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More than 1,200 challenges were compiled by the association in 2022, nearly double the then-record 2021 total and by far the most since the ALA began keeping data 20 years ago.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” says Deborah Caldwell-Stone, who directs ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. “The past two years have been exhausting, scary, outrageous.”

Thursday’s report documents not only the growing number of challenges, but also their changing nature. A few years ago, complaints usually came from parents and other members of the community and referred to an individual book. Now, applications are often for multiple dismissals and are organized by national groups such as the conservative Moms for Liberty, which has a mission to “unify, educate and empower parents to defend their parental rights at all levels of government”.

Last year over 2,500 different books were challenged, compared to 1,858 in 2021 and just 566 in 2019. In many cases, hundreds of books were challenged in a single complaint. The ALA bases its conclusions on media accounts and voluntary reports from libraries and acknowledges that the numbers could be much higher.

Librarians across the country have reported 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 to their child’s needs,” said ALA President Lessa Kanani’opua Pelayo-Lozada, in a press release. “Now many library workers face threats to their jobs, personal safety and, in some cases, threats of lawsuits for providing books to young people that they and their parents want to read.”

Caldwell-Stone says some books have been targeted by liberals for racist language – including Mark Twain’s ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ – but the vast majority of complaints come from conservatives, directed at works with LGBTIQA+ themes or racial. They include Maia Kobabe’s ‘Gender Queer’, Jonathan Evison’s ‘Lawn Boy’, Angie Thomas’ ‘The Hate U Give’ and a one-book edition of ‘The 1619 Project’, the New York Times award-winning report. Pulitzer Prize, on the legacy of slavery in the United States

Bills facilitating book restriction have been proposed or passed in Arizona, Iowa, Texas, Missouri, and Oklahoma, among other states. In Florida, where Governor Ron DeSantis has approved laws to overhaul reading material and limit classroom discussions of gender identity and books about race that are being pulled indefinitely or temporarily include John Green’s “Looking for Alaska,” Colleen Hoover’s “Hopeless,” Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and Grace Lin’s illustrated story “Dim Sum for Everyone!”

More recently, Florida’s Martin County School District removed dozens of books from its middle and high schools, including many works by novelist Jodi Picoult, Pulitzer Prize-winning Toni Morrison’s “Beloved,” and the thrillers.” Maximum Ride” by James Patterson, a decision that the best-selling author criticized on Twitter as “arbitrary and bordering on absurd”.

DeSantis called the reports of mass bans a “hoax,” saying in a statement earlier this month that the allegations reveal “some are trying to use our schools for indoctrination.”

Some books are coming back. Public school officials in Florida’s Duval County have been widely criticized after removing “Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates,” a children’s biography of the late Puerto Rican baseball star. In February, they announced the book would be back on shelves, explaining that they needed to review it and make sure it didn’t violate any state laws.


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