BLAIR COUNTY, Pa (WTAJ)– The American Library Association’s recent report found that complaints about challenged books soared in 2021, reaching its highest point in twenty years.
Challenged Books are written requests by patrons to libraries to have a specific book removed from shelves. Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Library Association Christi Buker said that many of the books challenged are based upon certain beliefs from organizations or challenging topics.
“It’s been specifically targeted at our diverse literature both in terms of diverse authors and diverse content,” Buker said.
According to the ALA, the two most challenged books for the year were both related to LGBTQ topics. Buker said that most of the complaints occur in schools than in public libraries. Pennsylvania had one of the highest numbers of banned books in the country, with 456 bans across nine districts.
According to Buker, the process of removing books from the shelves can take weeks or months of discussion. The library committee would have to understand the complaint and read through the book entirely. Then they analyze the collection of similar books and see if that book being challenged is appropriate.
“The process usually requires several people to read the full book,” Buker said. “Oftentimes, people will complain about one specific section or paragraph, and it’s taken out of context for the whole book and material.”
Buker noted that books challenged within schools tend to have confusion emerge with books for teaching purposes and books for entertainment purposes. Specifically, books placed for curriculum purposes are taught based on the skills and analysis within the read.
Most schools tend to have a procedure before it hits the shelf. Williamsburg School Librarian, Tanya Horton, said that books that hit the shelves at their school are based on curriculum, and if it doesn’t meet those standards, they’ll be pulled.
“As a librarian, I need to make sure the curriculum is being met, and I do that through the picture books,” Horton said. “If it doesn’t fit the curriculum, then I have to look at why we have it in our library, and if it fits our curriculum, I feel there’s a justification for it there.”