Books unite us. They reach across boundaries and build connections between readers. Censorship, on the other hand, divides us and creates barriers. One of our most important goals here at the Library is to provide free and equitable access to information and resources. Among the many implications of that word–access–is the notion of freedom: you are free to read, watch, play, or listen to whatever interests you.
The American Library Association and other organizations who are committed to preserving the tenet of intellectual freedom have promoted Banned Books Week in the fall. Libraries around the world celebrate this annual event by hosting author visits and book talks, special programs and book displays, and other initiatives to promote awareness of the many literary works that are routinely challenged and censored.
"Banned Books Week is a celebration of the freedom to read and to think independently," said Grier Carson, Library Director. "With the rise in the number of books being challenged across libraries and schools, it is also a sobering reminder that an increasing number of people see that very freedom as a threat. Through it all, libraries remain unwavered in their effort to provide free and equitable access to materials and to help support and facilitate that freedom."
The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom documented 1,269 demands to censor books and resources in 2022, "the highest number of attempted book bans since ALA began compiling data about censorship in libraries more than 20 years ago," according to the ALA website. "The unparalleled number of reported book challenges in 2022 nearly doubles the 729 book challenges reported in 2021. Of the record 2,571 unique titles targeted for censorship, these are most challenged, including reasons cited for censoring the books." 30% of challenges were initiated by parents, and 28% by patrons, with 48% taking place at public libraries, 41% at school libraries, and 10% at schools.
"Like many of our most cherished democratic institutions, libraries are about freedom—the freedom to explore, discover, and challenge yourself with new ideas," Grier said. "Regardless of one's political beliefs, public libraries are here to facilitate the freedom to think for yourself—and that even means the freedom to ignore content you may find offensive or inappropriate and instead borrow other materials. MCPL's mission is to provide equitable and impartial access to information and opportunities to engage. We select materials that reflect a wide range of views, expressions, opinions, and interests so that everyone in Monroe County can see themselves in our collections. Perhaps just as important, we also select materials that provide a window into other people's lives."
Of the 2,571 unique titles that were targeted, here are the most challenged, along with the reasons cited for censoring the books:
- Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe: Challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and because it is considered to have sexually explicit images
- All Boys Aren't Blue by George M. Johnson: Challenged for LGBTQIA+ content, profanity, and because it is claimed to be sexually explicit
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison: Challenged because it depicts child sexual abuse and it is claimed to be sexually explicit
- Flamer by Mike Curato: Challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and because it is claimed to be sexually explicit
- Looking for Alaska by John Green: Challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and because it is claimed to be sexually explicit
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky: Challenged for LGBTQIA+ content, rape, drugs, profanity, and because it is claimed to be sexually explicit
- Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison: Challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and because it is claimed to be sexually explicit
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie: Challenged for profanity and because it is claimed to be sexually explicit
- Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez: Challenged because it is claimed to be sexually explicit
- A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas: Challenged because it is claimed to be sexually explicit
- Crank by Ellen Hopkins: Challenged for drug depiction and because it is claimed to be sexually explicit
- Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews: Challenged for profanity and because it is claimed to be sexually explicit
- This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson: Challenged for providing sexual education and LGBTQIA+ content, and because it is claimed to be sexually explicit
"That a public institution can support the needs of so many different groups of citizens while emphasizing each individual's freedom to read (or not to read) is nothing short of remarkable," Grier said. "We encourage all MCPL patrons to reflect on that freedom and on how Banned Books Week reminds us that the path forward is through freedom of access, not book banning and censorship."
This week and beyond, we encourage you to check out something that challenges your own thinking on a particular subject, where it’s one of our staff recommendations for kids, staff recommendations for teens, or staff recommendations for adults. Whether it changes your mind or simply expands it, you’ll find that the freedom to access information and resources is akin to the freedom to think for yourself.
Children: Banned Books
Teens: Banned Books
Adults: Banned Books