With book banning and legislative attacks on the freedom to read continuing to surge across the country, the American Library Association announced today that it tracked a stunning 1,269 "demands to censor library 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, and nearly double the record-shattering 729 challenges recorded in 2021.

In a release, ALA officials said the challenges involved a record 2,571 unique titles—a stunning 38% increase from the 1,858 unique titles targeted for censorship in 2021. Once again, the vast majority of works challenged were written by or about members of the LGBTQ community and people of color; 58% of reported challenges targeted works in schools and 41% targeted materials in public libraries.

The numbers mark a worrisome trajectory: By comparison, ALA tracked some 377 challenges in 2019, the year before the pandemic shuttered libraries and schools. ALA officials said the skyrocketing numbers are the result of an organized, national political movement, noting the prevalent use of book lists compiled by various political groups—of the challenges tracked, 90% were part of attempts to censor multiple titles. Prior to 2021, the vast majority of challenges to library resources sought to remove or restrict access to a single book.

“Overwhelmingly, we’re seeing these challenges come from organized censorship groups that target local library board meetings to demand removal of a long list of books they share on social media,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, in a release. “Their aim is to suppress the voices of those traditionally excluded from our nation’s conversations, such as people in the LGBTQIA+ community or people of color. Each attempt to ban a book by one of these groups represents a direct attack on every person’s constitutionally protected right to freely choose what books to read and what ideas to explore. The choice of what to read must be left to the reader or, in the case of children, to parents. That choice does not belong to self-appointed book police.”

Their aim is to suppress the voices of those traditionally excluded from our nation’s conversations...

In the release, ALA president Lessa Kanani'opua Pelayo-Lozada pointed to the stress this surge book bans and legislative attacks has put on library workers and educators.

“Every day professional librarians sit down with parents to thoughtfully determine what reading material is best suited for their child’s needs. Now, many library workers face threats to their employment, their personal safety, and in some cases, threats of prosecution for providing books to youth they and their parents want to read,” Pelayo-Lozada commented. “While a vocal minority stokes the flames of controversy around books, the vast majority of people across the nation are using life-changing services that public and school libraries offer. Our nation cannot afford to lose the library workers who lift up their communities and safeguard our First Amendment freedom to read.”

ALA will unveil its highly anticipated list of the top 10 most challenged books in the U.S. on Monday, April 24 during National Library Week, along with its full State of America's Libraries Report. The theme of National Library Week 2023, There's More to the Story, focuses on “the essential services and programming that libraries offer through and beyond books.”

The rise in books bans comes as the the U.S. House is set to vote this week on HR5, the so-called "Parents Bill of Rights Act," a bill that freedom to read advocates say could bolster book-banning efforts nationwide. For more information and resources to fight for the freedom to read, visit Unite Against Book Bans.