One of the most astonishing news reports this week was a Washington Post news story about book banning that concludes:
School book challenges reached historic highs in America in 2021 and 2022, according to the American Library Association. And just a handful of people are driving those records. A Washington Post analysis of thousands of challenges nationwide found that 60 percent of all challenges in the 2021-2022 school year came from 11 adults, each of whom objected to dozens — sometimes close to 100 — of books in their districts.
That September 28, 2023, news story profiled one Virginia woman who single-handedly filed challenges against 71 books. This profile of one book-banning activist was prompted by the Post’s June analysis of banning nationwide.
Of course, this reporting focuses only on book banning campaigns in schools. There are other activists targeting public libraries.
But the math is startling!
Librarians are living in fear of such confrontations. One of the main stories in the current issue of American Libraries magazine is titled, “How We Fight Back: Library workers and advocates are turning to new policies, lawsuits, and legislation to stem the tide of book bans.”
In professional publications for librarians and educators, the fear of hordes of angry activists has left librarians so anxious that, among other things, they are hesitant to allow local authors to host events in their libraries, these days. One of those authors might be promoting an objectionable book, which could prompt local book-banning activists. Such activists have been known to target librarians personally and even to threaten library funding.
But it turns out that the horde is a tiny network of individuals, many of whom follow the examples of the handful of other would-be banners.
Usually, the targets of these banners are vulnerable principals, librarians, school boards or town councils—men and women who are terrified of these banners’ onslaughts.
Perhaps we all should consider sending our local officials pre-emptive notes of encouragement—urging them to remember that the vast majority of Americans still support our Founders’ value of free speech.