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ALA Report Reveals Unprecedented Surge of Book Bans in 2023, Threatening Free Expression

4,240 unique titles were challenged in 2023

The Authors Guild joins the American Library Association (ALA) in its dismay over the record number of book bans in 2023. The ALA’s report issued today shows that the number of titles targeted for censorship surged 65 percent in 2023 as compared to 2022, reaching the highest levels ever documented by the ALA. These new numbers show that efforts were made to censor 4,240 unique book titles in schools and libraries.

This increase in censorship efforts calls for a corresponding increase in efforts to combat them. The Authors Guild has long held that a healthy democracy requires vigorous literary debate, diversity of ideas, and a tolerance for discourse that some may find offensive or challenging. A few individuals should not be allowed to limit the marketplace of ideas to ones that they find acceptable. Regardless of one’s political, social, or religious views, suppressing books is anti-democratic, harmful, and a dangerous step toward autocracy. While parents have the right to decide what their own children may read, individual citizens should not have the right to remove books from schools and libraries and prevent other people’s children from having access to them.

We urge those who are challenging books to consider the First Amendment ramifications and the precedent created by book removals. We also ask them to respect the expertise of educators who are trained to review and assess books and determine their appropriateness for various age groups. If you want to help combat censorship, we urge members to let us know when they become aware of such efforts in their areas so the Guild can speak out and act accordingly. 

About the Authors Guild Book Ban Advocacy

The Authors Guild has been actively involved in combating the increasing efforts to ban books and restrict the teaching of certain topics in schools and libraries. The Guild joined with coalitions to file lawsuits that successfully challenged unconstitutional state laws in Arkansas and Texas that would banning books deemed “harmful to minors” or “sexually explicit,” without clear definitions. The Guild has also signed onto amicus briefs in Virginia Beach (opposing a petition asking the court to find two books “obscene for unrestricted viewing by minors”) and California (supporting a challenge to a school district’s ban on books related to critical race theory). The Guild is currently working on an amicus brief in Iowa opposing a law that requires schools to remove books containing depictions of sex acts.

In addition to legal action, the Authors Guild has engaged in educational efforts, hosting webinars on book banning and censorship, featuring authors whose works have faced challenges, particularly those from LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC communities. As part of the National Coalition Against Censorship, the Guild has signed onto numerous letters urging school boards to reconsider removing books from library shelves without due process.

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