Today, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors proclaims September 18-24 Banned Books Week. Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to read and the value of free and open access to information. The proclamation comes amid an unprecedented surge of book challenges in libraries and schools across the nation. According to the American Library Association (ALA), 729 tracked challenges resulted in 1,597 individual book challenges in 2021—the highest level of book ban attempts in more than 20 years. Preliminary data on 2022 book bans projects that 2022 is set to exceed record counts from 2021. Books about the experiences of LGBTQ+ and Black people and authors within those communities are among the most targeted.
Libraries provide carefully curated collections to meet the interests and needs of everyone in the community. With such a wide collection of books and materials, this means that what one parent or caregiver finds appropriate for their child may not be appropriate for another. Librarians respect these differences and are equipped to help parents and caregivers find the books and materials that represent their family values.
“When book bans happen, they erode our democratic freedom and rights to access information. Every individual should have the right to make decisions about what they and their families read; those decisions shouldn’t be made for them and imposed by others. Information is power,” said Board President Keith Carson.
“The removal of books from libraries and schools not only limits everyone’s access, but also dictates which voices are heard and which voices are silenced. When people do not see themselves reflected in books, it sends a message that they do not matter or have a place in our society—that they are not valued,” said County Librarian Cindy Chadwick.
Along with challenges to books, libraries have encountered opposition to programs and book displays. This past summer, libraries across the country were forced to shut down LGBTQ+ programming related to Pride Month celebrations due to protests and threats. On June 11, an incident occurred at the San Lorenzo Library during a Drag Queen Story Hour, part of a series of events throughout the Alameda County Library system to celebrate Pride Month. The event was disrupted when members of a local chapter of the Proud Boys entered the Library and shouted homophobic and transphobic slurs at the event’s performer while families and children were in attendance.
Anti-LGBTQ+ campaigns such as, “Hide the Pride” emerged this past summer to urge parents to check out all books from Pride Month displays that were aimed at children. The intention was to prevent all children from reading these books. While Alameda County Library was not a target of this campaign, some of its libraries found pamphlets that denounced LGBTQ+ identity inside of books that were part of LGBTQ+ book displays.
“These forms of censorship block parents, caregivers, and families from openly accessing programs and books and making their own informed decisions about what is appropriate for their children,” said Deputy County Librarian Deb Sica.
The ALA reports that most book ban challenges are from small vocal groups. A national poll commissioned by the ALA shows that seven in ten voters oppose efforts to remove books from public libraries, including majorities of voters across party lines. Communities and organizations can unite to counter book ban efforts by joining the Unite Against Book Bans campaign.
The Alameda County Board of Supervisors and Alameda County Library encourages everyone to celebrate Banned Books Week by reading one of the Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2021. These books can be found in the Library’s online catalog where they can be searched by format and availability. Visit your local AC Library to check out and read a banned book today.