Today is National Right to Read Day, the first day of National Library Week. Throughout the week we’ll be celebrating the ways our staff serve our community, but there is a reason we are celebrating the right to read first and foremost.
We celebrate this day because we know we cannot take the right to read for granted. Across the country, book bans and book challenges are rising. Earlier this year, the American Library Association released data illustrating just how much. In 2022, they documented 1,269 demands to censor library books and resources, the highest since they began collecting this data more than 20 years ago. That’s nearly double the 729 challenges reported in 2021.
The number of individual titles being challenged has also grown. A record 2,571 unique titles were challenged or banned in 2022, a 32% increase over 2021. Fifty-eight percent of challenges were against books in schools, while 41% targeted public libraries.
In light of all of this, we want you to know we remain steadfast in our commitment to your right to read, and that commitment is what we’re celebrating today.
Providing free and open access to ideas and materials is one of our guiding principles: Intellectual Freedom. We practice that in ways big and small. It means helping patrons navigate the internet and find the housing and job and benefit applications they need to go about their daily lives. It means stocking new popular DVDs and graphic novels and the newest James Patterson thrillers. It means carrying nonfiction books on gardening and cooking and computer programming and small business.
It means having books that are popular, books that are informational, that may be controversial, considered classics, or educational...and making them all accessible to whomever wants to read them.
This commitment has always been central to our mission. In 1948, our library adopted the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, which includes the tenets that books should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views or those contributing to their creation, that materials should not be removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval, and that libraries should challenge censorship.
What was true then is true now – that we believe in, and will fight to protect, your right to read.
We think that’s worth celebrating.