Censorship Efforts at Libraries Continued to Soar in 2023, According to a New Report

NEW YORK (AP) -- Bannings and attempted bannings of books soared again in the U.S. last year, continuing to set record highs, according to a new report from the American Library Association.

On Thursday, the ALA announced that 4,240 works in school and public libraries had been targeted in 2023, a substantial hike from the then-record 2,571 books in 2022 and the most the library association has tallied since it began keeping track more than 20 years ago.

As in recent years, many of the books being challenged -- 47% -- have LGBTQ and racial themes.

The number of separate challenges recorded by the ALA, 1,247, is actually down by 22 from last year. But efforts to censor dozens or even hundreds of books at a time have surged in Florida and Texas, among other states, reflecting the influence of such conservative organizations as Moms for Liberty and such web sites as www.booklooks.org and www.ratedbooks.org.

"Each demand to ban a book is a demand to deny each person's constitutionally protected right to choose and read books that raise important issues and lift up the voices of those who are often silenced," Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom, said in a statement.

Caldwell-Stone said she was especially concerned about the rise in challenges at public libraries, now some 40% of overall challenges -- more than double the percentage from 2022.

"We used to hear that when a book was removed from a school library that the child could still get it from the library in town," she said. "Now we're seeing the same groups turn around and demand the books be removed from the public libraries.

Next month, the association will release its annual list of books most frequently challenged. Maia Kobabe's graphic memoir "Gender Queer" has topped the list for the past two years, with other criticized releases including Jonathan Evison's "Lawn Boy," Sherman Alexie's "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" and Nobel laureate Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye."

The ALA's numbers are based on media accounts and reports from librarians. The association has long believed that many challenges go uncounted, or that some books are pulled by librarians in anticipation of protests.