After observing National Banned Book Week in September, and with recent headlines about the rise in book challenges across the country, it seems appropriate to talk a little more about the topic.
The American Library Association (ALA) reports that between January 1 and August 31 of this year, there were 681 attempts to ban or restrict library resources in the United States, targeting 1,651 unique titles. This is an unprecedented number. In 2021, there were 729 reported attempts to censor library resources, which is the highest number of attempted book bans since ALA began documenting these numbers over 20 years ago. We are well on our way to outpacing that number in 2022.
Here at CBCPL, we always offer patrons the opportunity to file a formal “reconsideration request” in addition to providing feedback. In these cases, patrons fill out a form that documents their concerns and our response to their request.
We have received 4 requests so far in 2022, and we received 11 in 2021. Both of these are high numbers for the state of Oregon, though not the highest in our state, either. These numbers do not include “informal” requests, where a patron may suggest the removal of an item or provide feedback for our consideration on a particular item in the collection.
During the review process, our library’s management team and the selector for that particular collection analyze the item in question to determine if it violates the principles found in our guiding documents. Our two main guiding documents for the selection of library materials are the American Library Association’s Bill of Rights and a City of Corvallis Administrative Policy that covers the Selection of Library Materials.
The ALA Freedom to Read Statement and The Freedom to View Statement are also both valuable documents that inform our decision-making. Lastly, this Intellectual Freedom and Censorship FAQ, also produced by the American Library Association, provides some helpful answers about the select few categories of speech not protected by the First Amendment.
There is a lot of discussion happening at a national level about censorship and intellectual freedom. At the core of a public library’s mission, we try to provide ideas and information to patrons with the end-goal of allowing people to inform themselves.
My intent in writing this article is not to make a statement about book challenges or these recent trends, but rather to help you learn more about this topic, should you wish to.
I am happy to talk further with anyone, and I find that the resources above offer a great starting place for conversations about both book challenges and intellectual freedom. I encourage you to talk with your friends and neighbors to hear their perspectives, too – open and honest dialogue with our fellow community members is one of the best ways we can learn and form our own opinions.