ALA: record number of unique book titles challenged in 2023

joy in diversity

In March 2024, the American Library Association reported a record number of unique book titles challenged in 2023.

“The number of titles targeted for censorship surged 65 percent in 2023 compared to 2022, reaching the highest levels ever documented by the…ALA.” The numbers “show efforts to censor 4,240 unique book titles in schools and libraries. This tops the previous high from 2022 when 2,571 unique titles were targeted for censorship.”

My irritation with this trend should be no secret to anyone who knows me or has read this blog for a while. Public libraries are, and I’m going to use some highly technical language here, “really cool.”

The Binghamton (NY) Public Library embedded in Daniel S. Dickinson School in Binghamton, NY had, at some point, the Dylan poster by  Milton Glaser on the wall. So THAT’s how you spell Dylan!

That branch and the main library downtown each had librarians from my church, strong black women. I worked downtown for about seven months, learning about Psychology Today and Billboard magazines, which I DEVOURED before putting them away.

When I lived at my grandmother’s shack in 1975, listening to LPs at the downtown branch was my refuge. In 1977, my go-to places were my downtown library in Charlotte, NC, and then the New York Public Library.

At FantaCo, I would go to the Washington Avenue branch of the Albany Public Library and look up publishers in Books In Print, which is how we ended up selling a bunch of Creepshow graphic novels.

I’ve never worked as a librarian in a public library. However, I’ve been what someone calls an advocate, participating with the Friends of the Albany Public Library and then its successor, the FFAPL.

So libraries have long been my third place. “The only real requirement is that nobody is forcing you to show up.”


The challenges to libraries, then, make me cranky publicly, and frankly livid in private. From the ALA:

“Key trends emerged from the data gathered from 2023 censorship reports:

  • Pressure groups in 2023 focused on public libraries in addition to targeting school libraries. The number of titles targeted for censorship at public libraries increased by 92 percent over the previous year; school libraries saw an 11 percent increase.
  • Groups and individuals demanding the censorship of multiple titles, often dozens or hundreds at a time, drove this surge.
  • Titles representing the voices and lived experiences of LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC individuals made up 47 percent of those targeted in censorship attempts.”

People in library districts have the right to pick for themselves what they choose not to read for themselves and their minor children. But some folks want to have OTHER PEOPLE climb under their rocks.

“Oh, no, black people are represented in books,” such as the Amanda Gorman inaugural poem.  “And homosexuals,” with the emphasis on the middle syllable. At the very moment, at least SOME of the nation is recognizing the joy of its diversity.

Libraries and librarians are free-speech heroes.

I recommend John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight segment on why public libraries are under attack, and where those challenges are coming from.

One commenter quotes a source I’m unfamiliar with, but it tracks as true. “When they start firing librarians and banning books, you’re in the beginning of a dictatorship. Librarians are the guardians of free speech and the first lines of defense against a dictator.”

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

One thought on “ALA: record number of unique book titles challenged in 2023”

  1. I am a huge reader and have been for a long time. My sister and I would win the “most books read” almost every summer when we were growing up. We had to walk to the library and get our stack of books and then walk back home lugging those books and it was still worth it. To this day, there are some books that I might not enjoy reading. I don’t but it is MY CHOICE. I do not like the idea of someone else telling me what I can and cannot read. Thank you to librarians who are willing to fight for books and freedom!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial