ALA Annual Conference 2021

2020 Censorship by the Numbers #alaac21

The Assistant Director for ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, Kristin Pekoll, offered an “on-demand” session during the ALA Conference about 2020 trends and numbers as well as discussing how the information is obtained. It was a quick but fascinating look at censorship in our libraries.

Two of the biggest items the Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) works on are providing support when challenges occur and developing and publishing the annual “Top Ten Most Challenged” report.

It was interesting to learn more about who initiates challenges. In 2020, there were 156 challenges. An increase in parents challenging resources was attributed to the fact that many more parents were at home observing their kids’ classes due to online learning.

Reasons for the challenges varied widely. Here’s a screen shot of some of the reasons.

And here is a screenshot of the top ten most challenged books of 2020:

Pekoll estimated that a very large percentage (82 to 97%) of challenges were not reported. This could mean that as many as 5200 challenges were not reported last year, pointing to the importance of reporting censorship attempts when/if they occur in order to offer support and research to those who may need it.

“It is so important to report censorship when we see it as a commitment to the core values we hold of intellectual freedom and social justice” said Pekoll. She went on to explain that this information helps in order to work to “defend the stories of BIPOC and and LGBTQIA people in fostering more inclusive institutions that represent and welcome all people and ideas.” She stressed that anyone can report censorship, being a librarian or a member of ALA is not necessary to report.

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