Censorship by the Numbers

Every year, the American Library Association compiles data on censorship attempts in libraries around the United States based on reports from the field and media coverage.

ALA compiles data on book challenges from reports filed with its Office for Intellectual Freedom by library professionals in the field and from news stories published throughout the United States. Because many book challenges are not reported to the ALA or covered by the press, the 2023 data compiled by ALA represents only a snapshot of book censorship throughout the year. A challenge to a book may be resolved in favor of retaining the book in the collection, or it can result in a book being restricted or withdrawn from the library.

Censorship by the Numbers

ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom documented 1,247 demands to censor library books and resources in 2023. The number of titles targeted for censorship surged 65% in 2023 compared to 2022, reaching the highest levels ever documented by OIF in more than 20 years of tracking: 4,240 unique book titles were targeted for removal from schools and libraries. This tops the previous high from 2022, when 2,571 unique titles were targeted for censorship. Titles representing the voices and lived experiences of LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC individuals made up 47% of those targeted in censorship attempts.

Groups and individuals demanding the censorship of multiple titles, often dozens or hundreds at a time, drove this surge in 2023. Attempts to censor more than 100 titles occurred in 17 states: Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

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Books and Beyond

Books are not the sole target of attacks orchestrated by conservative parent groups and right-wing media. Both school and public librarians are increasingly in the crosshairs of conservative groups during book challenges and subject to defamatory name-calling, online harassment, social media attacks, and doxxing, as well as direct threats to their safety, their employment, and their very liberty.


Who Initiates Challenges?

Prior to 2020, the vast majority of challenges to library books and resources were brought by a single parent who sought to remove or restrict access to a book their child was reading. Recent censorship data are evidence of a growing, well-organized, conservative political movement, the goals of which include removing books about race, history, gender identity, sexuality, and reproductive health from America's public and school libraries that do not meet their approval. Using social media and other channels, these groups distribute book lists to their local chapters and individual adherents, who then utilize the lists to initiate a mass challenge that can empty the shelves of a library.


Where Do Challenges Take Place?

Pressure groups in 2023 focused on public libraries in addition to targeting school libraries. The number of titles targeted for censorship at public libraries increased by 92% over the previous year; school libraries saw an 11% increase.