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NY Libraries Grapple With Increase in Book Challenges

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Monday, March 27, 2023   

As National Reading Month ends soon, libraries across New York and the nation are dealing with the increasing number of book challenges.

New data from the American Library Association finds demands to censor certain books hit an all time high of 1,200 in 2022. This is nearly double the 729 book challenges in 2021.

Most of the books in question deal with race or gender issues.

Arlene Laverde, president of the New York Library Association, said it can be scary for librarians to be confronted with these calls for censorship. But, she said she finds there's something similar about people bringing book challenges forward.

"One of the things I've noticed across the country is that they haven't even read the book," said Laverde. "They heard from a friend of a friend of a friend that this book is X, Y, and Z. They haven't read the book. Read the book. What is it exactly that is the problem with the book?"

She said people need to talk with librarians first before challenging a book, noting elected officials need to stand behind librarians rather than against them.

Despite the increase in book challenges, most people are opposed to banning books. A 2022 report from the American Library Association finds 71% of voters, across party lines, aren't in favor of banning books.

Also noted in the new data is that more than half of book challenges were aimed at books in school or classroom libraries. Less than half were aimed at books in public libraries directly.

Lisa Kropp, president-elect of the New York Library Association, noted that book challenges are becoming a common occurrence.

"This is something that's becoming an everyday issue almost for libraries to have to deal with," said Kropp, "to keep reminding people that freedom to read is a real thing, and that people have the right to choose their own material that they want to read or view."

More than 2,500 titles were targets of book challenges, which is a 38% increase from 2021.

The American Library Association finds recent challenges are making attempts to censor multiple titles at once. Forty percent of books challenged were in cases pertaining to 100 or more books.

Before 2021, most challenges only wanted to limit access to a single book.

Disclosure: American Library Association contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Children's Issues, Education, Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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