If you haven't been paying to the recent rise in book banning across the country or the organizations against book banning, now is the time to start. According to the American Library Association, over 729 challenges were raised against 1,597 individual books in 2021 alone. Compared to the 273 books that were challenged or banned in 2020, the amount of books that have been challenged has gone up significantly in just a year.
The issue of book bans should not be ignored. Considering the fact that the majority of these book bans occur in schools and school libraries, the people who are mainly affected by these book bans are the students themselves. Stifling the knowledge and experiences that students gain from books is unacceptable, but luckily there are plenty of organizations that have taken up a fighting stance against the issue. Here are just a few that are doing the work to help students impacted by book bans, and how you can support them.
- American Library Association
One of the biggest organizations that is at the forefront of the cause is the American Library Association. In April, the ALA started Unite Against Book Bans, a national campaign created to raise awareness about the increase in book challenges and bans, especially the rise in local and state legislation that work to make censoring literature even easier.
With more than 25 national organizations supporting the initiative, this campaign tracks support for the cause and provides resources to anyone interested in joining the cause through their online toolkit. This toolkit provides the public with everything from talking points to ways to reaching elected officials to make sure your voice is heard. Whether as an individual or through an organization, anyone can join the movement through their website and use the available resources to connect and spread the word about the issues caused by banning books.
- Brooklyn Public Library
The Brooklyn Public Library is also working at the national level to combat book bans.
“Brooklyn Public Library stands firmly for the principles of intellectual freedom against censorship,” Fritzi Bodenheimer, press officer of the Brooklyn Public Library, tells Her Campus. “We support the right of every individual to seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. That is the very mission of a public library.”
Their Books UnBanned initiative offers teens across the country unlimited access to the extensive eBook and audiobook collection of the Brooklyn Public Library, including banned titles. Any individual between the ages of 13 to 21 can apply for a free BPL eCard to gain access to their full digital library as well as their learning databases, by emailing BooksUnbanned@bklynlibrary.org.
According to Bodenheimer, since the inception of the program in mid-April, the library has issued about 4,000 cards in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
To further help with the fight against book bans, they’ve also established “BPL’s Intellectual Freedom Teen Council, to help one another with information and resources to fight censorship, book recommendations and the defense of freedom to read.” While the majority of its members are from New York, teenagers from around the country can join in meetings via Zoom.
“The initiative was conceived in response to an increasingly coordinated and effective effort to remove books from library shelves around the country,” says Bodenheimer. “Limiting access or providing one-sided information is a threat to democracy itself and we cannot sit idly by while books rejected by a few are removed from the library shelves for all.”
In addition to national programs, there are organizations working at the state and local levels to combat book bans in their area. On November 4, 2021, a group of librarians in Texas organized a Twitter takeover of #Txlege — Texas’s official hashtag for their state legislature — with their own, #FReadom. They invited families, authors, librarians, teachers, students and parents to come together to share and highlight the diverse books that bring them joy and bring the support of readers to the attention of the Texas Legislation.
Since then, they run monthly campaigns to support the freedom of reading and resources for those interested in getting involved with the cause. From templates and sample emails/letter to how-to guides on starting local support groups to resources for librarians, this group actively works towards providing support to students, authors, librarians and anyone else affected by book bans.
While a lot of these organizations offer resources for those affected by book bans and ways to support the cause, EveryLibrary, a non-profit and the first and only national political action committee for libraries, is doing something a little different. In April, they launched the Banned Book Store, a place where people can buy banned books. All books in the online store have been a target of bans or censorship attempts in schools across the country. Books are constantly being added to the website and all the proceeds go towards EveryLibrary and their work against book bans across the country, and to helping libraries secure the funding they need to support their communities.
- Large publishers & donations
Many large publishers have shown their opposition to book bans by donating, and you can follow in their footsteps. Penguin Random House made a $100,000 donation to PEN America, an organization that has been dedicated to ensuring that people everywhere have the freedom to create and consume literature. They made this donation on PEN America’s centennial anniversary as a way to “safeguard free speech and banned books,” with plans to increase financial support over the next five years.
Hachette Book Publishing also made donations to PEN America, the Authors Guild, and the National Coalition Against Censorship, to support the fight against book bans and to protect writers against censorship. Hachette, along with Macmillan Publishers and Scholastic, has partnered with the New York Public Library to provide access to a selection of commonly banned books through the library’s online reading platform.
People around the world can support the fight against book bans in multiple ways. Like some of the Big Five publishers, they can offer financial support by donating to the organizations listed above, or other local or national organizations. You can find PEN America, the Authors Guild, and the National Coalition Against Censorship donation pages on their respective websites.
While all of these are great ways to help combat book bans, the simplest way to effect real change is to get organized and get involved. Speaking out about books that are being banned, and acknowledging and noticing books that are being challenged can go a long way in helping the cause and ensuring that those who are being affected by it are being heard and supported.