ALA: Book Bannings in the USA Broke All Records in 2022

From Publishing Perspectives:

Last year saw 1,269 attempts to ban or restrict library materials in the United States, the highest level since the compiling of data began some 20 years ago, according to a new report from the American Library Association‘s watchdog agency on the issue.

The numbers make compelling reading, particularly in a week when effects similar to the wave of book bannings in the United States is echoed by a Wisconsin elementary school’s removal of a song from its spring concert because the Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus duet “Rainbowland” could be, in the words of the school administration, “perceived as controversial.” Here is Harm Venhuizen’s write-up for the Associated Press.

The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom tracks censorship demands made on libraries in the United States. The sheer magnitude of book challenges this office recorded in 2022 the growing threat of censorship in libraries.

. . . .

  • A record 2,571 unique titles were targeted for censorship, according to the report, constituting a major, 38-percent jump in such activity over that seen in 2021.
  • The 2022 number of reported book challenges relayed by the library association nearly doubles the 729 challenges reported in 2021.
  • Some 58 percent of those reported book challenges were made to books and materials in school libraries, classroom libraries, or school curricula, according to the report.

. . . .

Organized censorship groups, the report indicates, are creating lists of books they want to see banned from libraries. The use of these lists, the Office for Intellectual Freedom points out, “contributed significantly to the skyrocketing number of challenges and the frequency with which each title was challenged.”

Prior to 2021, the agency says, “the vast majority of challenges to library resources only sought to remove or restrict access to a single book.” Now, 90 percent of challenges include multiple titles, contributing to the increased numbers the agency is reporting:

  • 12 percent were in cases involving two to nine books
  • 38 percent were in cases involving 10 to 99 books
  • 40 percent were in cases involving 100 or more books

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

These sorts of articles raise a question in PG’s mind: Do children’s book publishers really understand their market – parents of children?

7 thoughts on “ALA: Book Bannings in the USA Broke All Records in 2022”

  1. I partially disagree with PG, because the market for children’s book publishers is inherently fragmented. “Parents of children” is certainly a strong element. But consider schools; school libraries; public libraries; other relatives; advocacy organizations; the list goes on. Yes, these are all relevant to adult books, too, but the shape of the market is different. I’m not trying to say (at all) that parents’ roles in choosing books for their children are small — just that they’re not nearly as dominant as college-educated parents tend to think.

    Whether it should be different is an entirely different (and much harder) question.

    • Does “college-educated” imply their knowledge of the situation is better or worse than the average parent?

  2. I have said this before, and I will say it again: that the ALA intends to convey the impression that parents saying “we don’t think kids should be required to read x” (which is what a challenge to a book being in a school’s curriculum actually is) is “censorship” says a lot, and none of it’s good.

    Now, let’s face it. Said parents might have really dumb or malicious reasons for not wanting their kids to be required to read a book. And sometimes you’ll get bonkers stuff, like the folks in Florida who freaked out over Michelangelo’s David. But this weird and bizarre notion that school staff are infallible arbiters of what is and is not appropriate for children is an utterly pernicious one that needs to die.

  3. Taking a role in what books your child reads is being a responsible parent. Deciding what other parents allow their children to read is being a sanctimonious twat.

  4. Many of the protests involve parents not being able to decide on what their child reads, due to hiding that content from the parents. Most schools do ask that teachers submit their required reading and video/movie content to principals/boards. It’s usually just a simple matter of filling out a form.
    For example, I had showed Apollo 13, October Sky, and The Martian to my classes. As those were age appropriate (9-12), and related directly to my science curricular content, I never had a problem. I did warn classes about the use of vulgar language in the films, and I never had an objection from families.
    The problems arise when the teachers decide to put age-inappropriate materials in the classroom, or assign questionable surveys involving intrusive sexual questions. Or, as recently happened, in the ‘David’ case, there was an established procedure to be followed, involving informing parents about nudity, crude language, or sexual content. You may think it silly, but the parents relied on use of that procedure to ensure that they wouldn’t be blindsided.
    That staffer had ignored the procedures REPEATEDLY – the ‘David’ incident was just the last straw. So, NOT fired for showing a picture of David, fired for deliberately and repetitively being insubordinate.
    COULD that person have arranged for an equally important Renaissance artwork to be used? Sure. COULD have used The Pieta, Moses (and other figures in the Tomb of Pope Julius), all by Michaelangelo. Or, Raphel’s work. Or da Vinci.
    It was a choice. And the guy ‘chose poorly’.

    • It’s the David. You’ll forgive me if I think that anyone who classifies it in the same category as, say, the Mapplethorpe photos or Legally Blonde 2, should not be permitted to be in a position where they are influencing children.

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