According to data released by the American Library Association (ALA), there were nearly 700 attempts to ban library books in the first eight months of 2023. From January 1 to August 31, the attempts sought to challenge or censor 1,915 titles, a 20% increase compared to the same months in 2022, the organization said. Last year saw the most challenges since the ALA began tracking book censorship more than two decades ago.
Such censorship extends to school libraries where we are seeing the removal or restricting of access to certain books, magazines, or other materials. This might include materials that are considered sexually explicit, contain offensive language, or explore controversial topics. Proponents of censorship argue that it is essential to shield students from material that may be harmful or offensive. They often cite reasons such as maintaining community standards, protecting minors from explicit content, or avoiding controversial subjects that might be deemed inappropriate for the age group. Findings indicate that a significant number of the books selected to be banned were written by or about a person of color, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, or a woman.
Book ban opponents argue that censorship limits students’ access to diverse perspectives, stifles intellectual growth, and hinders critical thinking skills. One of the main concerns regarding censorship in school libraries is the undermining of intellectual freedom. Libraries are meant to be unbiased sources of information, providing students with a wide range of materials that reflect various viewpoints and ideologies. By censoring certain books or materials, students are denied the opportunity to explore different perspectives and develop independent thinking. Moreover, limiting access to various materials is a form of control or exercise of power where a select few individuals or groups decide what is acceptable for the entire student body.