Book challenges up Nationwide and in Massachusetts Libraries

According to American Library Association (ALA), there have been a record number of book challenges across the nation. In 2021 ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 729 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services, resulting in more than 1,597 individual book challenges or removals. Between January 1 and August 31, 2022ALA documented 681 attempts to ban or restrict library resources, and 1,651 unique titles were targeted.

The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC), the Massachusetts Library Association (MLA), and the Massachusetts Library System (MLS) are working together to understand how local libraries are affected, support libraries, and respond in a united way. In September a short survey was emailed to librarians to get a better understanding of the formal book challenges and informal objections or disruptions happening in Massachusetts libraries.

The survey asked:
Has your library experienced a formal book challenge (in 2021 and in 2022)? Which titles?
Has your library received informal objections from patrons or experienced disruptions related to books, displays, or programs (in 2021 and in 2022)?

The response:
103 libraries responded; Combined formal and informal challenges, objections, disruptions have nearly quadrupled since 2021, going from combined total of 20 in 2021 to 78 in 2022.

In 2022:
10 libraries reported 16 formal challenges
55 libraries reported 62 informal objections/disruptions (estimated count from included comments)

In 2021:
1 library reported 1 formal challenge
12 libraries reported 19 informal objections/disruptions (estimated count from included comments)

Challenged titles include:

  • It Feels Good to Be Yourself
  • Jay’s Gay Agenda
  • Camp
  • Gender Queer
  • Lawn Boy
  • People Love Dead Jews: Reports from a Haunted Present [Comment included with this title: (the person challenging it completely misunderstood what the book is about)]
  • Girls of Fate and Fury
  • My Heart Is On the Ground
  • Razzmatazz
  • Hot Dog Taste Test
  • Not My Idea

MBLC, MLA, and MLS continue to meet regularly to discuss ways to support libraries including training, support during a challenge, and potential statewide activities.

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