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Banned Books Week Highlights Rise in US censorship

More and more books on library shelves in the US are being challenged by groups and individuals, according to a report by the American Library Association (ALA).  Many of the titles are by black or LGBTQ authors and/or feature black, indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) characters.  The ALA says that in 2021 it tracked 729 challenges in libraries, schools, and universities, resulting in 1,597 individual book challenges or removals.  The ALA says it was the highest number of attempted book bans since the organisation began compiling the list in 2002.

This year’s Banned Book Week, organised by the ALA, runs from 18-24 September and has as its tagline ‘Books unite us, Censorship divides us’.  Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, says:  “This is a dangerous time for readers and the public servants who provide access to reading materials. Readers, particularly students, are losing access to critical information, and librarians and teachers are under attack for doing their jobs.”

Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to read and spotlights current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools. For 40 years, the annual event has brought together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.

The ALA says: “The books featured during Banned Books Week have all been targeted for removal or restriction in libraries and schools. By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship.”