NEW YORK — The wave of attempted book bans and restrictions continues to escalate, the American Library Association reported Friday. The numbers for 2022 are already approaching last year’s totals, which were the highest in decades.
“I’ve never seen anything like it” says Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. “It’s both the number of challenges and the types of challenges. Previously, a parent had heard of a certain book and had a problem with it. Now we see campaigns where organizations compile lists of books, without necessarily reading or even watching them. »
The ALA documented 681 book challenges in the first eight months of this year, involving 1,651 different titles. In 2021, the ALA listed 729 challenges, directed to 1,579 books. Because the ALA relies on media accounts and library reports, the actual number of challenges is likely much higher, according to the library association.
Friday’s announcement is timed for Banned Books Week, which begins Sunday and will be promoted nationwide through tabletop displays, posters, bookmarks and stickers and through readings, essay contests and other events showcasing contested works. According to a report in April, the most targeted books include Maia Kobabe’s graphic memoir on gender identity, “Queer gender”, and Jonathan Evison “Lawn Boy” a coming-of-age novel told by a young gay man.
“We see this trend continuing in 2022, LGBTQ book reviews,” says Caldwell-Jones, adding that books about racism like Angie Thomas’ novel “The Hate You Give” are also frequently disputed.
Banned Books Weeks is overseen by a coalition of writing and free speech organizations, including the National Coalition Against Censorship, the Authors Guild and PEN America.
Conservative attacks on schools and libraries have proliferated across the country in the past two years, and librarians themselves have been harassed and even forced out of their jobs. A college librarian in Denham Springs, Louisiana has filed a legal complaint against a Facebook page that called her a “criminal and pedophile”. Voters in one West Michigan community, Jamestown Township, have backed drastic cuts to the local library over objections to “Queer Gender” and other LGBTQ books.
Audrey Wilson-Youngblood, who quit her job as a media specialist at the Keller Independent School District library in Texas in June, laments what she calls the “erosion of credibility and competence” in how his profession is perceived. At the Boundary County Library in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, library director Kimber Glidden recently resigned after months of harassment, including shouting of Bible passages referring to divine punishment. The campaign began with a single complaint about “Queer gender”, which the library didn’t even store, and escalated to the point where Glidden feared for his safety.
“We were accused of being pedophiles and caring for children,” she says. “People were showing up at library board meetings armed.”
Virginia Library Association executive director Lisa R. Varga said state librarians received threatening emails and were filmed at work, tactics she says “look like nothing those who have embarked on this career have expected to see.” Becky Calzada, library coordinator for the Leander Independent School District in Texas, says she has friends who have left the profession and colleagues who are scared and “to feel threatened.”
“I know some are concerned about promoting Banned Books Week because they could be accused of trying to advance an agenda,” she says. “There is a lot of apprehension.”