The American Library Association (ALA) documented 681 attempts to ban or restrict library books, targeting 1,651 unique titles, between January 1 and August 31, 2022. This put 2022 on target to surpass 2021’s record year of 729 attempts to ban 1,597 books, and 2023 is expected to see an increase over 2022. 

While the ALA tracks book challenges based on the calendar year, PEN American counts bans based on the school year. They found that during the 2021-22 school year, 2,532 attempts to ban books affected 1,648 unique titles. NPR – New Report Finds a Rapid Rise in Attempted Book Bans

Intellectual Freedom is the right of every individual to seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It allows for the free access to ideas through which any and all sides of a question may be explored. The rights of all sides must be protected, not just one viewpoint. Intellectual Freedom can be addressed in four areas: 

This is a First Amendment issue. 

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees all individuals the right to express their ideas without governmental interference, and to read and listen to the ideas of others. The First Amendment prevents public institutions, like libraries and schools, from compromising free expression. In Board of Education v. Pico, 457 U.S. (1982), the Supreme Court held that “the right to receive ideas is a necessary predicate to the recipient’s meaningful exercise of his own rights of speech, press, and political freedom.” This case affirmed that the right to seek and receive information is fundamentally protected by the constitution. 

This is a Freedom of Choice issue. 

There is a belief of democracy that individuals will exercise critical thinking skills to choose what they read and believe. Our communities are strengthened by the freedom of individuals to choose from conflicting opinions offered freely. The constant effort of weighing and selecting what they read can help an individual to know, not only what they believe, but why they believe it. 

This is a Parental Rights issue. 

Parents are the best caregivers of their child(ren). They have the basic right to direct their child’s upbringing and education. This includes teaching children their family’s values and morals. Parents have the right to raise their children as they see fit unless proven unfit by the courts. 

This is a Socio-economic issue. 

There is a mistaken belief that books are not banned if individuals can still purchase the title from a store. Not everyone has the discretionary funds to purchase books. In Boone County, 6.4% or 8,794 of our neighbors are at or below the poverty line defined at $30,000 for a family of 4. If access to books is denied at the public library, there is no other source for these families. 

People should have the freedom to read a broad range of ideas rather than only those that may be held by one single person, or government, or church. 

For more information:

Intellectual Freedom at Boone County Public Library. by Carrie Herrmann

Boone County Public Library Banned Books Week video