It's been a rough year as far as book banning goes. While bans and challenges are obviously not new (Banned Books Week was itself instituted in response to a surge of book bans in 1982), the number and character of these bans in the last couple of years has taken on patterns we haven't seen before.
There has been a strategic, organized effort on the part of right-wing organizations across the country to keep books about sex education, LGBTIQ+ topics, and the experiences of people of color out of youth hands, and to control what information we all have access to. These organizations provide funding, set goals, and distribute promotional material to local banning efforts. They have attempted not only to censor materials but also send librarians and teachers to jail, and close down entire libraries.
ReIndex of School Book Bans, PEN American estimates in their report that 41% of book bans in US schools from 2021 and 2022 "are tied to directives from state officials or elected lawmakers to investigate or remove books in schools. This is an unprecedented shift in PEN America’s long history of responding to book bans, from the more typical pattern in which demands for book removals are initiated by local community members."cent banning attempts also have alarming implications for our First Amendment rights to free expression without government interference. Based on data from their
These organized campaigns aren't even really about books. They're about power and control. When library patrons don't have access to accurate historical or health information, or to the stories told by marginalized authors, it harms our whole community. By eliminating access to history, to knowledge about our bodies and about the kinds of experiences that are possible in the world, book shape what realities we are able to envision for ourselves and our children.
These concerns might seem distant from our community in Marin, but we ignore them at our own peril. It's important for us to stay informed and actively protect access to media which helps all members of our community be their fullest, brightest, best selves.
Here are some ways to do that:
- First and most obviously, read banned books! Talk about them with your kids, your neighbors.
- Attend a Banned Books Week event with an author (all virtual)
- Get Ready Stay Ready, a community action toolkit for parents and caregivers
- Read Book Riot's Literary Activism newsletter to stay informed of book challenges across the U.S. and how people are organizing to combat them
- Listen in on local school board meetings, or run for the board yourself (here is a list of school districts in Marin. Follow the links to each school's page, which have subheadings about their boards including minutes and sometimes recording of past meetings, and agendas for future meetings.)
- Keep an eye on your local elections! Here is a list of local measures on the November 8 ballot for Marin. Measure B is Marin County Free Library’s parcel tax renewal which funds library hours, services, and collections.
- Support the public library by joining the Library Commission, the Friends of the Marin County Library or one of the local branch chapters, or leave a comment about what having access to diverse materials means to you!