IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Library Nonprofit Counters Censorship With Banned Books List

Ahead of Banned Books Week this week, the nonprofit EveryLibrary Institute published a spreadsheet of book titles and authors that have been targeted by parents across the U.S. trying to get them banned from schools.

A stack of books including "Flamer," "This Book Is Gay," and "Lawn Boy" pictured from the side so you can see their spines. There is a sticky note attached to the stack, obscuring some of the titles, which reads "banned."
Last year, the American Library Association documented 1,269 demands to censor library books and resources around the United States, double the amount from 2021 and the highest number since the ALA began compiling data on this topic more than 20 years ago. To raise awareness about the magnitude of this situation, a national nonprofit advocate for school and public libraries has published an online resource about book-banning trends across the country.

In conjunction with Banned Books Week this week, the Illinois-based EveryLibrary Institute publicized an online database called “Censorship Attacks.” Created in October 2021 but updated regularly, the spreadsheet has more than 8,000 lines identifying book titles and authors that have been banned or challenged by parents, and also lists the overseeing agencies — in most cases, K-12 school districts or public libraries.

The database notes when actions were taken to ban the books and what type of entity — school, library or outside group — initiated the action. It also lists the counties in which the challenge occurred, the latest status of the action, and if those identified books remain on shelves at particular locations.

“Our hope is to help stakeholders understand and differentiate between legitimate questions of local concern and the politicized or performative book and materials challenges that are attacking our libraries,” the EveryLibrary Institute’s website says.

The spreadsheet does not specify reasons why the listed books were censored, but based on descriptions by the American Library Association, many sparked controversy because of subject matter relating to sexual identity, gender, race, substance abuse, violence and various political issues.

Among the hundreds of book titles listed in the database, the following also ranked in the American Library Association’s Top 13 Most Challenged Books of 2022: Gender Queer, a Memoir; All Boys Aren’t Blue; The Bluest Eye; Flamer; Looking for Alaska; The Perks of Being a Wallflower; Lawn Boy; The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian; Out of Darkness; A Court of Mist and Fury; Crank; Me and Earl and the Dying Girl; and This Book Is Gay.

On Sept. 27, EveryLibrary released research findings on parent perceptions that noted 74 percent of parents think banning books from public libraries infringes on their rights to make decisions about reading for their own children. The study, which was done in September in collaboration with the literary website Book Riot, gathered responses from 853 parents of children under 18, finding that 67 percent of respondents believed banning books was “a waste of time.”

The study also said parent respondents were more comfortable with their child accessing age-appropriate children’s books related to social justice and racism than they were with their child accessing age-appropriate books related to LGBTQ+ characters, puberty and sex-education themes. Still, regarding any of those topics, less than 33 percent of the respondents indicated that such books have a negative impact on children.

“This report sheds light on the perceptions of parents regarding public libraries and the current issues they face,” John Chrastka, EveryLibrary Institute executive director, said in a public statement. “Together with Book Riot, we are dedicated to empowering libraries to provide exceptional services that meet the unique needs of parents. The results of this survey can be used to improve library services and address parents’ concerns, ultimately leading to better experiences at the library for parents and their children.”