September 29, 2023 1:09 PM
by Erica Cuyugan
As we begin Banned Books Week (Oct. 1 – 7), the theme of “Let Freedom Read” continues across the country as a call to action – a demand that we preserve our rights to access books, information and resources. This week is meant to draw national attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools.
In fact, censorship has moved beyond books and into school curriculums, resources and even displays and exhibits, and it’s on the rise. According to the Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), the American Library Association (ALA) documented 1,269 demands to censor library books and resources in 2022. This is the highest number of attempted book bans since ALA began compiling data about censorship in libraries more than 20 years ago, and almost double the number of challenges in 2021. Of the 2,571 unique titles targeted for censorship, most were by or about LGBTQIA+ persons and Black, Indigenous and people of color.
Newly published statistics on Banned and Challenged Books for 2023 show that the steep, upward trend continues. Between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31 of this year, OIF reported a 20 percent increase in attempts to censor library materials and services and documented book challenges. Censorship occurred in 220 school districts and 208 public libraries across the country.
While these statistics are disheartening to hear, this week is also about celebrating the courage and support to preserve access to books and information from librarians, educators, booksellers, publishers, writers, journalists, and readers of all types. It is about remembering how empowering and enriching it can be for readers to see themselves represented in the pages of books and materials at their community library – to know that they are valued, that they are seen and that their experiences matter. This week is about acknowledging the importance of access to stories, voices and opinions that are different from our own.
As Santa Monica teenager Felix Bolton so eloquently stated at last week’s city council meeting, after Mayor Gleam Davis’ Proclamation for Banned Books Week, “Being able to read and to have access to books are some of the most important prerequisites to success in school and in life in general.”
Let’s continue to value the voices and experiences of ALL of our community members and Let Freedom Read.
We invite you to visit the Santa Monica Public Library locations, check out the book displays and participate in the Banned Books Trivia Bowl at the Main Library at 601 Santa Monica Boulevard on Wednesday, Oct. 4, at 6 p.m.
Director of Library Services