Story September 28, 2023

Book bans have no place in our schools and libraries. Here’s how we’re fighting them.

Patrick Stewart, Library Foundation SD CEO

Books are powerful things. They can change minds, offer new perspectives, transport readers to different realities, and even help people discover themselves.

Library Foundation SD stands firmly against book bans and challenges for these reasons.

We believe that readers – and especially young readers – should be able to read what they want and form their own opinions. We believe the fundamental right to intellectual freedom is the cornerstone of our democracy. We believe that our libraries must reflect the diversity of the communities they serve.

This is why we’re joining the nationwide Books Unbanned campaign to make challenged titles available to youth across the U.S.

Book bans are on the rise

In recent years, we’ve seen an increasingly aggressive and coordinated effort to challenge and ban books on school and public library shelves. In 2022, the American Library Association reported a record number of censorship demands across the U.S.

Last year, those looking to limit book access targeted 2,571 unique titles – a 38% increase from the year before. The ALA reports that 58% targeted school libraries, while 41% targeted public libraries.

Many of the challenged books deal with the issues that young readers face. Most are written by and about people of color, the LGBTQIA+ community, and other marginalized populations.

We know that these efforts breed ignorance, misunderstanding, and hate. Worse still, the American Library Association notes that these challenges can stir up unacceptable violence and threats against libraries and librarians.

Rather than protect children, book bans and challenges only shield young readers from the realities of the world around them. Every child deserves to see themselves in the books they read – especially if they belong to a diverse identity or population. No exceptions.

These book bans and challenges are part of a broader cultural purge that flies in the face of our country’s ideals, and they lay out a clear path to groupthink and authoritarianism. If we want to live in a country where everyone belongs, we need to fight back.

What we’re doing about it

These organized campaigns stifle views they disagree with in cultural, community, and educational spaces. They’re stamping out the intellectual freedom that our country was founded upon and the free access to information that makes the library a cornerstone of democracy.

Those seeking to ban books are organized in their pursuit of groupthink and cultural supremacy. So, we’re not backing down.

To help counter these egregious attacks on intellectual freedom, Library Foundation SD and the San Diego Public Library are launching a new philanthropically driven campaign called Books Unbanned.

The concept was first started by our friends at the Brooklyn Public Library. Since then, the Seattle Public has also announced its participation in Books Unbanned.

Books Unbanned will allow young readers in San Diego and beyond to check out books from a digital catalog of titles. These will include many books commonly challenged and banned from school and library shelves.

Most importantly, this catalog of books will be available in states with the highest instances of book bans – including Texas, Florida, Missouri, Utah, and South Carolina.

How you can help

If you believe that creating a culture where everyone belongs starts with celebrating and not demonizing diversity, we need your help. This includes the diversity of the titles on our school and library shelves. We need your help to stand up firmly against censorship. The alternative is a broken world where entire communities and identities are left out of the public square and forced into the margins. We cannot let that happen.

You can help resist book bans by reading banned books and spreading awareness of the harm that censorship and book challenges can bring to libraries and schools across the U.S.

Book bans often occur at school board or other public meetings. Show up and inform everyone in attendance that book bans are a dangerous slippery slope to intellectual tyranny and censorship.

And, you can also donate to your local public library or an organization that supports intellectual freedom. Libraries are on the front lines of the battle against book bans, and they are often the most effectively positioned to resist them.

Together, we can ensure that our democracy remains robust and the freedom to read is enshrined in our libraries, schools, and community spaces.