NEW YORK (AP) – The American Library Association reported Friday that efforts to ban books and sanctions have intensified. The numbers for 2022 have already moved closer to last year’s totals, the highest in decades.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” says Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom. “It’s both the number of challenges and the type of challenges. It used to be that parents learned about a given book and there was a problem with it. Now we see campaigns where organizations read without necessarily Or compiling lists of books without even looking at them.”
The ALA documented 681 picks for books in the first eight months of this year, covering 1,651 different titles. Throughout 2021, the ALA listed 729 challenges directed at 1,579 books. Since the ALA relies on media accounts and reports from libraries, the real number of challenges is likely to be far greater, the library association believes.
Friday’s announcement is time for Banned Books Week, which begins Sunday and will highlight competition works across the country through table displays, posters, bookmarks and stickers, and through readings, essay contests and other events. According to a report released in April, the most targeted books included Mia Kobabe’s graphic memoir about sexual identity, “Gender Queer,” and Jonathan Avison’s “Lawn Boy,” a coming-of-age narration narrated by a young gay man. The novel is included.
“We’re seeing the trend continue into 2022, with criticism of books with an LGBTQ theme,” Caldwell-Jones says, adding that books about racism, such as the Angie Thomas novel “The Hate You Give,” are also frequently challenged. .
Band Books Weeks is overseen by a coalition of writing and free speech organizations, including the National Coalition Against Censorship, the Authors Guild, and Pen America.
Conservative attacks against schools and libraries have spread across the country over the past two years, and librarians themselves have been harassed and even fired from their jobs. A middle school librarian in Denham Springs, Louisiana has filed a legal complaint against a Facebook page that labeled him a “criminal and pedophile.” Voters in Jamestown Township, a western Michigan community, supported massive cuts to the local library over objections to “gender queer” and other LGBTQ books.
Audrey Wilson-Youngblood, who left her job as a library media specialist at Texas’s Keller Independent School District in June, calls an “erosion of credibility and competence” in the way she views her profession. At the Boundary County Library in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, library director Kimber Glidden recently resigned after months of harassment that included shouting Bible passages referring to divine punishment. The campaign began with a single complaint about “gender queer”, which the library didn’t even stock, and escalated to the point where Glide feared for his safety.
“We were being accused of being pedophiles and grooming children,” she says. “People were showing up armed at library board meetings.”
The executive director of the Virginia Library Association, Lisa R. Varga says librarians in the state have received threatening emails and videotaped work at work, which she says is “nothing that those going into this career were expecting to see.” Becky Calzada, the library coordinator for the Leander Independent School District in Texas, says she has friends who have left the profession and colleagues who fear and “feel in danger.”
“I know some concern about promoting Banned Books Week because they could be accused of trying to push an agenda,” she says. “There’s a lot of anxiety.”