Controversial books are nothing new, but the frequency of book challenges and bans is significantly increased in the past few years.
This week marks the American Library Association’s annual banned books week, and this year’s theme is ‘Books unite us. Censorship separates us.”
This was the result of a survey by the association on the subject 71% of Americans oppose the removal of books from public libraries and 67% oppose the removal of books from school libraries.
Andrea Boothby Rice, chair of the Maryland Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Panel, said. At the same time, the state has not seen a large increase in book challenges, some programs have been challenged.
“In Maryland, we’ve seen some of the places where LGBTQ programs have been held, and people who live outside of the counties — that’s not their local library that’s holding it — are showing up trying to cancel the events,” Boothby Rice observed.
Further information on the initiative of the association against censorship can be found online at uniteagainstbookbans.org.
Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the American Library Association’s Office of Freedom of Thought, which has tracked book censorship for decades, said organized political groups that advocate for censorship are involved in efforts to influence school boards and library boards, and motivated voices to have their say on elected officials. Public officials faced with book challenges often listen to people speaking up at public meetings, but when anti-censorship protesters make themselves heard, things can be different.
“When there are others in the room who speak out against censorship, in favor of young people and the community having a wide range of books to read, we often see efforts to remove books fail,” says Caldwell. stressed Stone.
She added that writing an email to the library board or sending a letter with another supporter to be read at a meeting could also give busy people a way to make their voices heard.
Throughout her career, Caldwell-Stone has seen the types of books that are challenged increase. She said books containing profanity or coming-of-age stories detailing first sexual experiences have often been challenged, but in recent years challenges have taken on additional political dimensions.
“If you look at the contested books, you see books that have no sexual content whatsoever, but advance other narratives about our history with racism or the lives and experiences of LGBTQIA people,” Caldwell-Stone explained.
The association appreciates 82% and 97% of book challenges are not reported.