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Challenges to books that depict the BIPOC and LGTBQ+ experience have been under attack. Photo: American Library Association
Challenges to books that depict the BIPOC and LGTBQ+ experience have been under attack. Photo: American Library Association

American Library Association reports uptick in banning of books about LGBTQ+ and BIPOC

OIF Director Deborah Caldwell-Stone told Los Angeles Blade that they’ve been seeing an unprecedented uptick in challenges in the Fall of 2021.

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On Tuesday, Nov. 30, the American Library Association (ALA) released a statement reporting that the organization has documented 155 unique incidents of efforts to remove or ban books that focus on LGBTQ+ issues, books by Black authors, or that document the Black experience or the experience of other BIPOC individuals. 

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) is actively involved in providing confidential legal guidance and strategic support to libraries and library professionals in communities across the country impacted by the recent surge in book challenges.

Since June 1, (OIF) has tracked 155 censorship incidents and provided direct support and consultation in 120 of those cases. 

“In recent months, a few organizations have advanced the proposition that the voices of the marginalized have no place on library shelves. To this end, they have launched campaigns demanding the censorship of books and resources that mirror the lives of those who are gay, queer, or transgender or that tell the stories of persons who are Black, Indigenous, or persons of color,” the statement by the ALA executive board read. 

The statement also said that some of these groups have gone as far as intimidation and threats to achieve their goals, targeting library workers, educators, and board members. 

“We stand opposed to censorship and any effort to coerce belief, suppress opinion, or punish those whose expression does not conform to what is deemed orthodox in history, politics, or belief. The unfettered exchange of ideas is essential to the preservation of a free and democratic society,” the ALA board said. 

OIF Director Deborah Caldwell-Stone told Los Angeles Blade that they’ve been seeing an unprecedented uptick in challenges in the Fall of 2021. 

“In my 20 years with ALA, I can’t recall a time when we had multiple challenges coming in on a daily basis,” Caldwell-Stone said. 

A school board in Flagler County, Florida is seeking criminal charges against school officials for allowing copies of the LGBTQ+ themed book All Boys Aren’t Blue to remain in two of the county high school’s libraries. 

Last month, Texas Governor Greg Abbott sent a letter directing the Texas Education Agency, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, and the State Board of Education to immediately implement statewide standards to restrict access to certain content in public schools, particularly books by LGBTQ+ authors that tell the stories and explore the identities of LGBTQ+ people. 

The Williamson County, Tennessee chapter of a far-right group called Moms for Liberty has campaigned against COVID-19 restrictions in schools, and against school curriculums that mention LGBTQ+ rights, race, and discrimination. 

In September, the group demanded that schools cut short lessons about Martin Luther King Jr, and Ruby Bridges for being too “divisive,” and lessons about civil rights be cut for “negative views for firemen and police.” 

Established in December 1968, the OIF is tasked with implementing ALA policies regarding intellectual freedom, and access to libraries and library materials.

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