Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Child and librarian looking for books

Emilie Matthews helps Maddison Morgan, 5, pick out a book at Belmar Library on June 6, 2017, in Lakewood, Colorado. (Photo: Seth McConnell/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Book-Banning Efforts Rising at Unprecedented Rate, US Libraries Report

"We're truly fearful that at some point we will see a librarian arrested for providing constitutionally protected books on disfavored topics," said one free speech advocate.

Julia Conley

Right-wing attempts to ban books are showing no sign of slowing down, according to a report released Friday by the American Library Association—and in fact have reached an unprecedented level, with libraries and bookstores increasingly facing legal threats over the materials on their shelves.

The organization, which has been tracking book-banning efforts for more than 20 years, found that so far in 2022, parents and other community members have "challenged" 1,651 different books and have issued 681 complaints across the country.

In 2021, 1,597 individual books were the subject of challenges, which can include written complaints, forms provided by and submitted to a library, or social media posts in which people demand books be removed from a library's collection. 

Friday's report showed that right-wing groups like Moms for Liberty have escalated their attacks on library patrons' right to access certain books, with 27 police reports having been filed so far this year over accusations that librarians are providing inappropriate or "pornographic" material to children.

"Efforts to censor entire categories of books reflecting certain voices and views shows that the moral panic isn't about kids: It's about politics."

"We're truly fearful that at some point we will see a librarian arrested for providing constitutionally protected books on disfavored topics," Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the Office of Intellectual Freedom at ALA, told The New York Times.

Book challenges this year have mainly focused on titles that center Black or LGBTQ+ characters, according to the Times.

The graphic novel Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, a memoir about the author's coming of age as a nonbinary person, has been the most frequently targeted book so far this year.

The book was at the center of a vote in Jamestown Township, Michigan last month in which residents rejected essential funding for the town's library, prompting concerns that the library will be forced to close within the next year.

Parents in a town in Washington also filed police reports against the school district for including Gender Queer in a school library's collection, and a Republican lawmaker sued Barnes & Noble to prohibit it from selling the book to minors—a lawsuit that was dismissed last month.

ALA president Lessa Kanani'opua Pelayo-Lozada said the group's report "reflects coordinated, national efforts to silence marginalized or historically underrepresented voices and deprive all of us—young people, in particular—of the chance to explore a world beyond the confines of personal experience."

Banning books that discuss racial inequality or LGBTQ+ issues "denies young people resources that can help them deal with the challenges that confront them," added Pelayo-Lozada. "Efforts to censor entire categories of books reflecting certain voices and views shows that the moral panic isn't about kids: It's about politics."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Democrats Push to Lift Ban on Student Loan Bankruptcy Relief

"Modernizing and clarifying the consumer bankruptcy system is long overdue," said a leader at Public Citizen, one of many groups backing the bill.

Jessica Corbett ·


Fetterman Calls Biden Marijuana Pardons and Reforms a 'BFD'

"Too many lives—and lives of Black and Brown Americans in particular—have been derailed by this criminalization of this plant," the progressive Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and Pennsylvania asserted.

Brett Wilkins ·


Judge's Ruling Puts New York Gun Control Efforts on Path Back to Supreme Court

"Judges award themselves maximal protection against guns and then tell parents around the country that they have no power to keep guns out of daycare," said one critic.

Julia Conley ·


'Next Up? Legalize It': Advocates Cheer Biden Move to Pardon Marijuana Convictions

"This is what pressure and advocacy look like," said anti-poverty activist Joe Sanberg. "This must be the first of many steps to ending our decadeslong failed policies on marijuana."

Brett Wilkins ·


At Least 66 Clinics in 15 States Have Ended Abortion Care Post-Dobbs

Over a third of those facilities have fully closed, meaning patients also lost "access to contraceptive care, STI testing and treatment, and pregnancy care," said a Guttmacher Institute researcher.

Jessica Corbett ·

Common Dreams Logo