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Book censoring attempts doubled in 2022

The American Library Association has been recording data on censorship in libraries for more than 20 years. This year's data has record numbers.
Book censoring attempts doubled in 2022
Posted at 8:30 PM, Mar 23, 2023

There was a record number of demands to censor library books and resources in 2022, according to new data from the American Library Association.

The ALA shared that there were 1,269 challenges to books or library resources, which is higher than any other year — and they've been recording that data for more than two decades. 

Deborah Caldwell-Stone is the director of the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom. She said many of these demands to censor books come from "organized censorship groups that target local library board meetings to demand removal of a long list of books they share on social media."

She said these groups are trying to "suppress the voices of those traditionally excluded from our nation's conversations."

And the numbers don't lie.

The ALA's numbers demonstrate that 2,571 unique titles were challenged in 2022, with the majority of those works created by or about members of the LGBTQIA+ community and people of color.

SEE MORE: Inside the movement to ban books at libraries and in schools

"Each attempt to ban a book by one of these groups represents a direct attack on every person's constitutionally protected right to freely choose what books to read and what ideas to explore," Caldwell-Stone continued. "The choice of what to read must be left to the reader or, in the case of children, to parents. That choice does not belong to self-appointed book police."

The 1,269 challenges in 2022 more than doubles those recorded in 2021 —  729.

ALA President Lessa Kanani'opua Pelayo-Lozada says the ALA began documenting challenges to books "because we want to shine a light on the threat of censorship facing readers and entire communities."

SEE MORE: Book bans and challenges on the rise in the US

A majority of challenges in the latest data targeted more than one book at once. 40% of them involved 100 or more books.

The ALA says prior to 2021, most of the challenges to library resources only sought to remove or restrict access to a single book.

"Book challenges distract from the core mission of libraries: to provide access to information," Pelayo-Lozada continued. "While a vocal minority stokes the flames of controversy around books, the vast majority of people across the nation are using life-changing services that public and school libraries offer."

More than half of the targeted books were found within school libraries, classroom libraries or school curricula.

Pelayo-Lozada also shared concerns about library workers facing personal, employment and legal threats for simply providing books.

"Our nation cannot afford to lose the library workers who lift up their communities and safeguard our First Amendment freedom to read."

The ALA says it will release its list of the top 10 most challenged books in the U.S. on Monday, April 24, during National Library Week, along with its full State of America's Libraries report.

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