As the right-wing book-banning movement justifies its crusade against U.S. libraries and classrooms with claims of “parental rights,” survey data released Wednesday shows that 74% of parents agree or somewhat agree that book bans for public libraries infringe on their right to make decisions for their children.
“This report sheds light on the perceptions of parents regarding public libraries and the current issues they face,” said EveryLibrary Institute executive director John Chrastka, whose think tank and professional network partnered with the website Book Riot for a survey conducted this month, as the 2023-24 academic year got underway.
“Together with Book Riot, we are dedicated to empowering libraries to provide exceptional services that meet the unique needs of parents,” Chrastka continued. “The results of this survey can be used to improve library services and address parents’ concerns, ultimately leading to better experiences at the library for parents and their children.”
EveryLibrary Institute and Book Riot aimed to “gather insights from parents and guardians about their opinions on book bans; their trust in libraries and their understanding of librarians’ book selection process; and their opinions on sensitive subjects in children’s books, such as sex, LGBTQ+ characters and themes, race, and social justice issues.”
The organizations found that 92% of respondents feel their children are safe at the library, 67% believe that “banning books is a waste of time,” and 58% think librarians should be primarily responsible for what is available at a public library—even though 53% do not know how librarians decide what works should be in a collection.
Additionally, 87% of respondents agree or somewhat agree that “characters in books should be diverse and reflect multiple communities,” 82% support teens having access to content on “controversial subjects and themes,” 67% believe libraries should carry children’s books that discuss topics such as racism and sex, and nearly 61% think collections should include kids’ titles with LGBTQ+ characters and stories.
Respondents also want a role in decision-making: 95% believe parents should be involved in helping their children decide what to read; 90% agree or somewhat agree that they should make decisions about what their child reads; and 53% think parent groups should be involved in collection development choices.
Despite the book ban movement's claims about "explicit" books in school, parents reported being more comfortable with children reading sexual education books than books with LGBTQ characters. https://t.co/cgkUdzaWaT
— Book Riot (@BookRiot) September 27, 2023
Two-thirds of respondents said “no” when asked if their child has ever been uncomfortable with a book they checked out, and about the same share said “no” when asked if a book their child checked out made them, the parent, uncomfortable.
“By gathering insights from parents, we hope to generate a body of informative and thought-provoking material that sheds light on the complex issues surrounding book bans and censorship,” said Book Riot’s Kelly Jensen. “Our ultimate goal is to foster an open dialogue around these issues and to support libraries and their users in navigating this challenging landscape.”
The findings follow a pair of reports from last week that highlighted right-wing efforts to ban books in libraries and schools.
As of August 31, the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom documented 695 attempts this year to remove a total of 1,915 titles from public and school libraries—an increase from last year, which broke the overall record for book challenges since data collecting began over two decades ago.
During the 2022-23 academic year, PEN America recorded a 33% increase in book bans at K-12 public schools from 2021-22. The group tracked 3,362 instances, which cut off student access to 1,557 unique titles. Over 40% of bans occurred in Florida, where public education is under attack from Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, a 2024 presidential candidate.
“Those who are bent on the suppression of stories and ideas are turning our schools into battlegrounds, compounding post-pandemic learning loss, driving teachers out of the classroom, and denying the joy of reading to our kids,” said PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel. “By depriving a rising generation of the freedom to read, these bans are eating away at the foundations of our democracy.”
Common Dreams has been providing breaking news & views for the progressive community since 1997. They are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.