NEW YORK — The wave of attempts to ban and restrict books continues to intensify, the American Library Association reported Friday. The 2022 figure is already close to last year’s total, the highest in decades.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom. “It’s both the number of challenges and the kinds of challenges. It used to be a parent learning about a given book and having a problem with it. Now we’re seeing activities where organisations are making lists of books without having to read or even look at them.”
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In the first eight months of this year, the ALA recorded 681 challenges to books across 1,651 different titles. Throughout 2021, the ALA listed 729 challenges targeting 1,579 books. The Library Association believes that the actual number of challenges is likely to be much higher because the ALA relies on media accounts and library reports.
Friday’s announcement, which begins Sunday for Banned Books Week, will be promoted across the country through tabletop displays, posters, bookmarks and stickers, as well as readings, essay contests and other events highlighting controversial works. According to a report released in April, the most targeted books included Maia Kobabe’s figurative memoir about sexual identity “Gender Queer,” and Jonathan Iveson’s “Lawn Boys,” a tale of a young gay man. coming-of-age novel.
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“We’re seeing this trend continue in 2022, with criticism of books with LGBTQ themes,” Caldwell-Jones said, adding that things like Angie Thomas’ novel “The Hate You Give” and others Books about racism are also often challenged.
Banned Books Week is overseen by a coalition of writing and free speech groups, including the National Coalition Against Censorship, the Writers Guild and PEN America.
Conservative attacks on schools and libraries have surged across the country over the past two years, and librarians themselves have been harassed and even kicked out of their jobs. A middle school librarian in Denham Springs, Louisiana, filed a legal complaint against a Facebook page that labeled her as a “criminal and pedophile.” Voters in the western Michigan township of Jamestown support slashing local libraries because of their opposition to “gender queer” and other LGBTQ books.
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Audrey Wilson-Youngblood, who quit her job as a library media specialist for the Keller Independent School District in Texas in June, lamented what she called “the erosion of credibility and competence” in looking at her profession. At the Boundary County Library in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, librarian Kimber Glidden recently resigned after months of harassment that included chanting that God is mentioned in the Bible Punishment paragraph. The campaign started with a complaint about being “gender-queer” that the library wasn’t even stocked, and escalated to the point where Glidden feared for her safety.
“We were charged with pedophilia and grooming of children,” she said. “People are fully armed at library board meetings.”
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Lisa R. Varga, executive director of the Virginia Library Association, said librarians in the state received threatening e-mails and were videotaped at work, tactics she said “have nothing to do with those in the profession. Expect something completely different. Look.” Becky Calzada, library coordinator for the Leander Independent School District in Texas, said she has friends who have left the industry and others who are afraid and “feel threatened.” colleague.
“I know some people are concerned about promoting Banned Books Week because they could be accused of trying to advance the agenda,” she said. “There’s a lot of fear.”