A report released Thursday by the American Library Association (ALA) found that attempts to ban or restrict books reached a record high in 2022.
More than 1,200 challenges were compiled by the ALA in 2022, nearly double that of 2021 and by far the most in 20 years, since the association began keeping records.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. “The last two years have been exhausting, frightening, outrage inducing.”
According to the ALA, the nature of requests for book removals have changed along with the increase in the number of challenges. It used to be that complaints arose in reference to an individual book, usually from from parents or other community members. In recent years the requests are often for multiple books and come from nationally organized groups such as Moms for Liberty. In numerous cases, hundreds of books were challenged in a single complaint.
Last year, more than 2,500 different books were objected to, compared to 1,858 in 2021 and just 566 in 2019. But because the ALA bases its findings on media accounts and voluntary reporting from libraries, the association notes that these totals might in actuality be far higher.
According to Caldwell-Stone some books, like “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” have been targeted for racist language. However, she said the vast majority of complaints come from conservatives who object to books with LGBTQ+ or racial themes.
In March of last year, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed the Florida’s Parental Rights in Education—a.k.a. “Don’t Say Gay”—Law, and 16 other states have looked to copy its language. The Florida law specifies that its target is children in third grade and younger, but recently a rule has been proposed in the state’s Board of Education which would expand the law to include grades 4 through 12.
Video of completely empty book shelves at one Florida school library went viral this past year, and other schools have reported dozens of books pulled from shelves, subject to review.
DeSantis, however, has called reports of mass bannings a “hoax,” saying in a statement released earlier this month that the allegations reveal that “some are attempting to use our schools for indoctrination.”