April 15, 2022
School libraries play an essential role in local communities, sparking personal and academic growth and opening doorways for children and teens to other worlds, people, and cultures. In recognition of their invaluable service, the American Library Association (ALA) and the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) mark every April as School Library Month, an extension of National Library Week.
Today, schools and school libraries face more challenges and difficulties than they have experienced in decades. A special report just issued by the ALA titled State of America’s Libraries: Pandemic Year Two states that the number of books being challenged or banned in 2021 was twice as high as the year before, and more numerous than any other year since the organization first began tracking book challenges more than twenty years ago. Similarly, PEN America issued Banned in the USA which reported that half of the states in the country now have book bans of one kind or another, affecting more than two million students.
According to the Banned in the USA report, school districts and states have banned more than 1500 books, including biographies about Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Sonia Sotomayor, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Marie Curie, John Coltrane, Maya Angelou, Celia Cruz, and Jesse Owens. Biology books that teach adolescents about their bodies and how they change during puberty have been banned. Books recently banned as problematic for elementary and middle school students include I’m A Pretty Little Black Girl!, Cece Loves Science, Yasmin the Chef, and The Friendship Code (Girls Who Code Series).
Moreover, states continue to debate and enact laws to monitor librarians’ speech and actions, building off the deliberate misuse of terms like critical race theory and hysteria over pedophilia and “grooming” behaviors. In March, a Texas librarian was fired after refusing to remove “pornographic” books from library shelves, while Idaho’s state Legislature debated a bill that could have sent librarians to jail for allowing a child to check out “potentially harmful” books. School administrators in at least eight states, afraid of attracting controversy, are quietly removing books from library shelves before they can be challenged.
In celebration of School Library Month and National Librarian Day (April 16), we would like to honor librarians around the country who work to ensure that readers have access to the books they want to read. The Authors Guild stands firmly with libraries and school libraries and opposes censorship in any form. Book banning undermines democracy by suppressing free speech and expression, hindering creativity and innovation, and making it harder for authors to earn a living.
We will shortly be launching a new year-long initiative to support authors whose works have recently been banned and also provide access for middle and high school students to read books banned in their districts. In the meantime, you can get involved by doing what you do best: write. To help you get started writing op-eds and letters of concern to your local school board or legislator, please access our anti-book-banning toolkit.