The American Library Association (ALA) documented 1,269 demands to censor library books and resources in 2022, the highest number of attempted book bans since ALA began compiling data about censorship in libraries more than 20 years ago. The record number of reported book bans in 2022 nearly doubles the 729 book challenges reported in 2021 (Unite Against Book Bans). The prevalent use of lists of books compiled by organized censorship groups contributed significantly to the skyrocketing number of challenges and the frequency with which each title was challenged. Of the overall number of books challenged, 90% were part of attempts to censor multiple titles (American Library Association).
Books are challenged and banned for a variety of reasons, including:
Challenged book--a book that a person or group has attempted to remove or restrict from a library or classroom based on certain objections.
Banned book--a challenged book that has been removed from a library or classroom.
The Let Freedom Read Day website--from the American Library Association's Office of Intellectual Freedom in partnership with the Banned Books Week Coalition--outlines several ways you can "defend books from censorship and stand up for the library staff, educators, writers, publishers, and booksellers who make them available."
1. Check out or buy a banned book.
Checking out banned books or books about topics that are frequently targeted for censorship proves that the community is interested in reading them. Library staff can use circulation data to support keeping the books on shelves.
Censorship harms not only libraries and schools, but also impacts writers, publishers, and booksellers. Purchasing banned books supports these organizations and individuals. After you've read a banned book, pass it on to a friend or donate it to a library, which may be able to add it to their collection or include it in their annual book sale.
2. Make a call or send an email.
Call or email school and library administrators, board members, and trustees, and your elected officials to let them know your concerns about censorship and ask them to support your right to read. An email is also a nice way to tell library staff, educators, and authors that you support them. Make a public statement for your right to read on social media!
3. Attend a meeting.
Decisions about book challenges and library collection development policies are being made locally, which makes attending school board, library board, and city council meetings one of the most critical actions you can take to fight censorship.
Most local governments and boards post meeting calendars and agendas online, and some also livestream meetings. Even if book bans or collection policies aren’t on the agenda, many boards and councils set aside time for public comments. Don’t let the people calling for censorship be the only voices in the room.
For more ideas on how you can help fight censorship, check out these resources:
Missouri Library Association
Unite Against Book Bans
American Library Association