The number of reported book challenges topped 700 in 2021—the most since 2000, according to the American Library Association’s (ALA) annual State of America’s Libraries 2022 report released April 4.
The report summarizes library trends and outlines statistics and issues affecting libraries during the previous calendar year. It comes out annually during National Library Week, this year April 3–9.
Library staff in every state faced an unprecedented number of attempts to ban books. ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) tracked 729 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services in 2021, resulting in more than 1,597 individual book challenges or removals. Most targeted books were by or about Black or LGBTQIA+ individuals.
The 729 challenges represent the highest number of attempted book bans since ALA began compiling the list 20 years ago.
“We support individual parents’ choices concerning their child’s reading and believe parents should not have those choices dictated by others,” said ALA President Patricia “Patty” M. Wong in a statement. “Young people need to have access to a variety of books from which they can learn about different perspectives.”
Wong added, “Libraries remain ready to do what we always have: make knowledge and ideas available so people are free to choose what to read.”
The top 10 most challenged books in 2021:
- Gender Queer, by Maia Kobabe. Banned, challenged, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content and because it was considered to have sexually explicit images.
- Lawn Boy, by Jonathan Evison. Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and because it was considered to be sexually explicit.
- All Boys Aren’t Blue, by George M. Johnson. Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and profanity, and because it was considered to be sexually explicit.
- Out of Darkness, by Ashley Hope Pérez. Banned, challenged, and restricted for depictions of abuse and because it was considered to be sexually explicit.
- The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas. Banned and challenged for profanity, violence, and because it was thought to promote an anti-police message and indoctrination of a social agenda.
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie. Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and use of a derogatory term.
- Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, by Jesse Andrews. Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and degrading to women.
- The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison. Banned and challenged because it depicts child sexual abuse and was considered sexually explicit.
- This Book Is Gay, by Juno Dawson. Banned, challenged, relocated, and restricted for providing sexual education and LGBTQIA+ content.
- Beyond Magenta, by Susan Kuklin. Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and because it was considered to be sexually explicit.
Recent polling by ALA shows that seven in 10 US voters oppose efforts to remove books from public libraries, including majorities of voters across party lines. Three quarters of parents of children in public schools (74%) express a high degree of confidence in school librarians to make good decisions about which books to make available to children.
The new poll also found near-universal high regard for librarians and recognition of the critical role that public and school libraries play in their communities.
ALA announced plans to launch Unite Against Book Bans, a national initiative designed to empower readers to fight censorship.
The campaign is intended to educate, engage, and mobilize readers and others concerned about censorship across demographic groups and the political spectrum. The initiative, made possible with support from the Steve and Loree Potash Family Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, will be coordinated with other local, state, and national efforts to build a strong and vibrant network of individuals and organizations working to fight censorship.