Information Today, Inc. Corporate Site KMWorld CRM Media Streaming Media Faulkner Speech Technology Unisphere/DBTA
Other ITI Websites
American Library Directory Boardwalk Empire Database Trends and Applications DestinationCRM Faulkner Information Services Fulltext Sources Online InfoToday Europe KMWorld Literary Market Place Plexus Publishing Smart Customer Service Speech Technology Streaming Media Streaming Media Europe Streaming Media Producer Unisphere Research

News & Events > NewsBreaks
Back Index Forward
Threads bluesky LinkedIn FaceBook RSS Feed

Four Steps You Can Take Right Now to Fight Book Bans
Posted On October 17, 2022
It’s no secret that there has been a dramatic uptick in the number of books coming under a cloud of controversy and sometimes being pulled from local public and school library shelves. Journalist Janice Ellis states, “Book banning is considered to be the most widespread form of censorship.” As conservativism, including a push from groups such as Moms for Liberty and No Left Turn in Education, leads to an increase in books being challenged and libraries being threatened, librarians and library workers across the U.S. are coming to terms with what this means for themselves and their libraries.

Book Banning in School and Public Libraries

In April, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, held a hearing to discuss the potential erosion of free speech that book banning and classroom censorship could cause. He said in his opening remarks, “If we cancel or censor everything that people find ‘offensive,’ nothing will be left. Everybody is offended by something, and that is why other people’s level of offense cannot be the metric for defining whether my rights are vaporized.”

PEN America’s latest Index of School Book Bans, summarized by Jonathan Friedman and Nadine Farid Johnson, shows 2,532 individual book-banning instances from July 2021 to June 2022. The index reports bans in 32 states; the school districts with bans “include 5,049 schools with a combined enrollment of nearly 4 million students.” Friedman and Johnson write, “Many Americans may conceive of challenges to books in schools in terms of reactive parents, or those simply concerned after thumbing through a paperback in their child’s knapsack or hearing a surprising question about a novel raised by their child at the dinner table. However, the large majority of book bans underway today are not spontaneous, organic expressions of citizen concern. Rather, they reflect the work of a growing number of advocacy organizations that have made demanding censorship of certain books and ideas in schools part of their mission.” In fact, school board meetings have often become battlegrounds where conservative parents and others share the reasoning behind their push for books being pulled from shelves.

At library board meetings across the country, echoes of these school board meetings can be heard. Parents, concerned citizens, and community stakeholders bring their cases for banning books—sometimes naming titles the library doesn’t even have in its collection! A few books that have been mentioned in banning movements are Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe, All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson, and Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez. Noticeably, challenged books tend to feature LGBTQ+ characters and/or characters who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color. Essentially, characters who are not cisgender, heterosexual, and white are being erased from the reading landscape.

There is a danger in removing books from curious, thoughtful, and questioning students in schools and at home. Many have recommended that instead of removing books, parents, caretakers, and other trusted adults should read along with young people and have meaningful conversations with them about what is going on in the book.

Fighting Back

As someone who no longer works in libraries but teaches future librarians, I want to know how to do my best to educate these students on book banning. Here is what I have found: Educate yourself on the books being questioned or banned; encourage others to support and advocate for your local libraries, both school and public; attend board meetings for both schools and libraries; and learn the system for responding to book challenges within your library through the collection development policy.

  1. Educate Yourself

It is critical to educate yourself about the books that are under attack from various groups. The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom’s Banned & Challenged Books and Banned Books Week are two excellent resources to consult when you are just beginning to investigate banned books. PEN America keeps an eye on banned books across the U.S. and does a wonderful job. It would be a good idea to check your local state library association for more resources that pertain to your state and regional communities.

  1. Spread Support

If you are a librarian or library worker, share your story about banned books with those in elected positions and with fellow citizens. Many people outside the library field may not be aware of how serious the situation actually is. We sometimes exist in a silo and forget that not everyone in our communities knows about what is going on in school and public libraries. We need to take those blinders off and become more vocal about the issues that are occurring in our libraries. We need to make our neighbors, friends, and other citizens into fellow library advocates.

  1. Attend Board Meetings

As a young youth services librarian, my director assigned me to attend our monthly school board meetings (they were funders for our library system). It is eye-opening what you learn about your community and the way in which others view the library. Go to your local school and/or public library board meetings. They are open to anyone and give you an opportunity to observe—and contribute to—the discussions that impact library operations and well-being. Book Riot has a template to get you started if speaking in public is a daunting prospect.

  1. Learn the Library Policies

Do you know your library or library system’s collection development policy? Does your library or library system have a policy? If it doesn’t, it honestly very much should. I teach a collection management course, and this is one of the first elements of collection development we cover. Investigate your policy and how it addresses dealing with cases of pushback on a book. (Many libraries have their policies posted on their websites; you can create or update yours using their example.) In my experience, the cases usually don’t go as far as banning or a written request for reconsideration of a book, but times are changing. You need to know how to respond to a patron when they bring a challenge, which person or people on the library staff should be made aware of the situation, and how next to proceed.

Dr. Abigail L. Phillips is an assistant professor in the School of Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. She can be reached by email at or on X (@abigailleigh).

Related Articles

9/26/2023ALA Announces LeVar Burton as Honorary Chair of Banned Books Week
8/17/2023Penguin Random House Introduces a Banned Books Resource Site
8/8/2023PEN America Report Details the Dangers of Book Backlashes
6/6/2023The Scholarly Kitchen Blog Weighs In on How Publishers Should Respond to Book Bans
5/18/2023PEN America Leads Lawsuit Against Florida School District for Banning Books
5/4/2023ALA Plans Banned Books Week 2023
4/27/2023ALA Publishes Content for National Library Week
1/24/2023Book Riot Shares List of 2023 State Legislation Targeting Libraries
1/24/2023Great Reads for 2023
12/6/2022Grolier Club Exhibit Shares the History of Books
11/22/2022Collegiate Book Collecting Contests: Encouraging Lifelong Appreciation of Reading and Libraries
9/29/2022The Library Corp. Joins Unite Against Book Bans
9/22/2022Unite Against Book Bans Releases White Paper on How Diverse Reading Improves Children's Development
9/20/2022'American Library Association Releases Preliminary Data on 2022 Book Bans'
9/20/2022'Voter Perceptions of Book Bans and Censorship' From the EveryLibrary Institute
9/15/2022ALA and Sourcebooks Publish a Banned Books Reading Challenge
8/30/2022News Roundup: Book Bans, Misinformation, and Vaccine Info on Wikipedia
6/7/2022'Conservative Group Launches "Hide the Pride" to Remove Books From Library Pride Displays' by Danika Ellis
5/17/2022Organizations Team With ALA for the Unite Against Book Bans Campaign
5/10/2022EveryLibrary Starts a Banned Book Store
4/26/2022'No, Actually, Book Bans Don't Sell Books' by Andrew Karre
4/19/2022'We Need to Talk About the Mental Health Effects of Book Bans on Authors' by Karis Rogerson
4/12/2022'Texas Leads Among 26 States With Book Bans, Free Speech Group Says' by Nicole Chavez
4/12/2022Librarians Can't Be Neutral in the War on Information
3/31/2022'Progressives Are Resisting Rightwing Book Banning Campaigns …' by Adam Gabbatt
2/24/2022'How the New Banned Books Panic Fits Into America's History of School Censorship' by Constance Grady
2/1/2022Beyond Banning: New Challenges to the Right to Read
1/20/2022'The Streisand Effect Won’t Save Us From Censorship' by Danika Ellis

Comments Add A Comment

              Back to top