Book challenges are not new; but in the past few years, book challenges have been occurring in record numbers. According to the American Library Association (ALA), there were 45 book challenges in Massachusetts in 2022 affecting 57 titles. That’s more than the past 9 years (2013-2021) combined which totaled 38 challenges. Nationwide, ALA reported 1,270 book challenges in 2022, up significantly from 350 in 2019.
To date, no books have been banned in Massachusetts, however the Joint Task Force for Intellectual Freedom, with members from the Massachusetts Library Association (MLA), Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC), Massachusetts Library System (MLS), the Massachusetts School Library Association (MSLA) were interested in whether the challenges were having other impacts on library services.
In July 2023 the task force conducted an informal survey to better understand the impact book challenges are having on library services and staff. The survey was open to library directors at all types of libraries who were asked to report on activity from June 30, 2022 to July 1, 2023.
Respondents by library type:
11 public libraries with a total of 59 challenges (one library had 32) were not reported to ALA, MLA, or MSLA during June 30,2022 to July 1, 2023.
Nearly 25% of school and public librarian respondents combined reported being harassed on social media; 22% reported being harassed via email; 18% report being harassed in person related to book challenges or program challenges.
48.5% of school library respondents reported that they reconsidered displays and books or items featured due to negativity surrounding book challenges.
18% of public library respondents reported that they eased up on publicizing an event which may be considered controversial.
The Massachusetts Library Association, Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, the Massachusetts Library System, and the Massachusetts School Library Association recently released a statement in support of libraries and intellectual freedom. Individuals can show their support by signing on at tinyurl.com/supporting-libraries. These organizations also provide information and support to librarians and communities experiencing book and program challenges. Intellectual Freedom & Censorship: Impact in Massachusetts and Beyond and More Licensed School Library Teachers, Less Book Banning have more information. For full survey results please contact Celeste.Bruno@mass.gov or June.Thammasnong@mass.gov .