Book bans have become a steadily growing issue in the last few years, impacting libraries, prisons, and schools alike. Libraries in particular provide access to literature to those who may not be able to afford to purchase books, helping to reduce barriers to crucial information and knowledge. In 2023 alone, over 1,900 library book titles were challenged, a marked increase from 2022, which in itself was a record year in library book challenges according to the American Library Association (ALA). This holiday season, let’s give back to the places that give so much to us. Here are five ways you can help libraries affected by book bans.
1. Report challenged books to ALA.
Since its establishment in 1876, ALA has been supporting librarians confronted with censorship by providing them with guidance and resources. In 1990, ALA opened its Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), which aims to uphold free access to libraries and library materials. One of the ways OIF accomplishes this goal is by keeping a database of all challenged materials. The information gleaned from this database helps ALA to develop resources for protecting library materials and defending against challenges.
If you’re aware of any books being challenged at your local library, you can report them here. All reports are confidential.
2. Join the Freedom to Read Foundation.
The Freedom to Read Foundation (FTRF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to upholding the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by combatting censorship in libraries. In particular, FTFR supports and protects librarians and libraries by providing them with legal counsel or the means to acquire it for matters concerning freedom of speech and the freedom to disseminate library materials.
By becoming a member of FTFR, you’re helping to accomplish FTFR’s objectives of increasing the organization’s visibility, executing legal and educational initiatives, and defending freedom of speech, all of which benefit librarians and teachers impacted by censorship attempts. You can become a member today by donating as little as $10. Learn more about FTFR memberships here, and join the organization here.
3. Be vocal on social media.
One of the biggest barriers to fighting book bans is a lack of awareness of the issue by the general public. Without the help of people like you, it’s even more difficult for organizations such as ALA to carry out their important work. Luckily, supporting these organizations and initiatives is as simple as spreading the word to your personal network. Upload a picture of the banned book you’re currently reading, share book ban–related news, and amplify resources from organizations dedicated to fighting book censorship.
Use #bannedbooks to post about this issue on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, or any social media platform you use. If you’re not sure what to post, you can download sharable graphics from ALA here.
4. Stay informed.
One of the best ways to help end book bans is to stay updated on the latest censorship news and monitor how the issue continues to evolve. Staying interested in and informed about book bans will enable you to have conversations with your friends, family, and community members and educate others about the importance of this issue.
ALA offers some incredible resources for learning more about literary censorship. For example, the organization compiles a list of recent media coverage of book bans, which is available to view on its website. You can check out that list here. Plus, view ALA’s book ban data, as well as additional resources, here.
5. Keep reading banned books.
The aim of book bans is to restrict information and freedom of speech, which is why it’s important to keep reading and talking about commonly banned books. Support your local library by borrowing books that are frequently challenged or banned. This helps the librarians know that there is interest in these books, encouraging them to push back against future challenges.
ALA tracks frequently challenged books as part of their initiative to help educate librarians and teachers. You can check out its archive of the most challenged books of each year here and view more data on frequently challenged books here.
The holiday season is a time of giving, so this year, consider giving back to your local library. Librarians work tirelessly to fight book bans and uphold the free exchange of information, so demonstrate your gratitude by following the above recommendations or simply saying thank you the next time you check out a book!