Recently, we’ve seen a rise in book bans and challenges in the United States, with 2022 having a record high, nearly double that of 2021. According to the American Library Association, between January and August of this year, there have been nearly 700 attempts to ban or restrict materials.
Last year, the majority of challenged books were by or about the LGBT+ community, or by and about Black people, Indigenous people, or people of color.
Looking at these facts can be disheartening. We’re seeing an attack on communities happen in real time as pearl-clutching parents attempt to rid schools and towns of representation.
It’s not all bad. People are standing up to the rise in challenges. Local libraries and bookstores bring attention to banned books. People run small libraries outside their houses. Some libraries allow non-residents access to their catalogs through the internet.
In October, the Queer Liberation Library launched. The QLL, run through library app Libby, has a current collection of over 400 titles, all of them LGBT+. They are run by volunteers and are taking title suggestions. The only rule? It must have LGBT+ content. You can submit these suggestions on their website and sign up for a membership. Don’t worry, it’s free, but you can choose to donate.
The QLL is open to people of all ages. It’s a fantastic way for people of all ages to access works written by a diverse group of people. It’s also a good place for people looking for representation, or for people who are exploring who they are.
Because they are online, they aren’t subject to book bans, and though that wasn’t the original intention, it’s fortunate. Physical libraries aren’t always able to have large collections of LGBT+ titles through no fault of their own. Between budgets and boards, there’s only so much they can do, especially if they don’t have community support.
As I’ve said before, censorship is bad for everybody. There’s no telling where the stopping point is, and in taking away access to literature, we take away understanding. Literature is how we learn about experiences that differ from our own. It’s not a bad thing for kids to be exposed to how other people live. In fact, that exposure can be a good way for them to learn about themselves and the world around them.
Reading outside your comfort zone can be a good thing. It’s an opportunity to learn. But, we can’t do that if people are banning or challenging anything they don’t like.
Lynn Spahr is a Hutchinson sophomore studying journalism and the Opinion Page Editor.