‘Challenging’ books in library study to rise in 2021

'Challenging' books in library study to rise in 2021

NEW YORK ( Associated Press) — Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the American Library Association of Intellectual Freedom, has never been so busy.

“A year ago, we were receiving one, maybe two reports about a book being challenged in a library. And usually those calls would be for guidance on how to handle a challenge or for those materials. for those who support the value of the challenge’s work,” Caldwell-Stone told the Associated Press. “Now, we are getting three, four, five reports a day, many need support and some need a lot of support.”

“We’re on the phone constantly,” she said.

book ban and attempt book ban account, The threats against librarians have increased over the past year, with And the ALA included some of the numbers in its annual State of America Library report, released Monday. The association faced 729 challenges in public schools and libraries in 2021 – affecting nearly 1,600 books, more than double the 2020 figures and the highest since the ALA began compiling the challenges more than 20 years ago.

The actual total for the past year is likely to be much higher – the ALA collects data through media accounts and through the cases it learns from librarians and teachers and other community members. Books already pulled by librarians – out of fear of community opposition or concern for their jobs – and challenges never reported by librarians are included.

The numbers could rise again well into 2022, Caldwell-Stone said, as conservative-led school boards and legislatures enact more restrictions. Last week, the Georgia legislature passed a bill that would speed up the process of removing books viewed as “harmful to minors.”

“Nothing would surprise me,” Caldwell-Stone says.

The two most challenging books on ALA’s top 10 list have frequently been discussed: Maia Kobabe’s graphic memoir about sexual identity, “Gender Queer,” and Jonathan Avison’s “Lawn Boy,” is a coming-of-age novel narrated by a young gay man. Both have been ousted by Republican officials.

Last in Virginia, Glenn Youngkin supported the banning of two books by a local school board during his successful run for governor. Around the same time, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster supported the school board’s decision to remove “gender queer”.

Recently in Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a law criticizing “gender queer” and “lawn boys” Which would force elementary schools to provide a searchable list of every book available in their libraries or used in instruction, and to allow parents, DeSantis said, “to whistle.”

Kobabe and Avison noted an irony of their books being targeted during recent interviews: neither set out to write a story for young people. But they gained a following among students with the help of the American Library Association, which has awarded each book the Alex Prize for “works written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 to 18.” “

“I think a big part of our books are getting so much attention that they are award-winning and are being bought by libraries all over the country,” Kobe said.

Others on the ALA list, cited for nearly all LGBTQ or racial themes, include Angie Thomas’ bestselling “The Hate You Give”, which focuses on the police shooting of a black teen; “All the Boys Are Not Blue” by George Johnson, “This Book Is Gay” by Juno Dawson and “Beyond Magenta” by Susan Cucklin. two old jobs that have been on the list before Also appear in: Autobiographical Novel of Sherman Alexey “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” and Nobel Prize Winner Toni Morrison The first novel “The Bluest Eye.”

The Library Association defines a “challenge” as a “formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that the material be removed because of its suitability.” The ALA doesn’t keep an exact figure for exactly how many books have been removed, but cases have surfaced regularly over the past year. Last December, a school district in San Antonio, Texas pulled hundreds of library books “to make sure they didn’t contain any obscene or pornographic material.”