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Banned Books & Censorship

Learn more about banned books, censorship, and how you can fight for your intellectual freedom

Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to read and spotlights current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools. The books featured during Banned Books Week have all been targeted for removal or restriction in libraries and schools. By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship.

What Are Banned Books?

A book challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. 

A book ban is the removal of those materials from classrooms, curriculum, and libraries. Book bans restrict the access of others who may want to read the material.

Office of Intellectual Freedom Censorship by the Numbers Book Challenge versus Ban

Why Are Books Being Banned?

Often challenges are motivated by a desire to protect children from “inappropriate” sexual content or “offensive” language. The following were the top three reasons cited for challenging materials as reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom:

  1. the material was considered to be "sexually explicit"
  2. the material contained "offensive language"
  3. the materials was "unsuited to any age group"

Although this is a commendable motivation, Access to Library Resources and Services for Minors, an interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights (ALA's basic policy concerning access to information) states that, “Librarians and governing bodies should maintain that parents—and only parents—have the right and the responsibility to restrict the access of their children—and only their children—to library resources.” 

"Banned Book FAQ", American Library Association, October 25, 2016. (Accessed October 6, 2023)

Intellectual Freedom

Free People Read Freely image with American Library Association Logo and Office of Intellectual Freedom LogoIntellectual freedom gives people the right to think for themselves. It respects individual dignity and self-rule. This freedom allows people to form their own ideas and opinions by questioning the world around them. Every person has the right to access information from all points of view, in all formats, and without restriction. Privacy is required for true intellectual freedom. Protection of this freedom assures every person’s right to form their own ideas and opinions.

“These attacks on our freedom to read should trouble every person who values liberty and our constitutional rights, said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.

“To allow a group of people or any individual, no matter how powerful or loud, to become the decision-maker about what books we can read or whether libraries exist, is to place all of our rights and liberties in jeopardy.”

"American Library Association Releases Preliminary Data on 2023 Book Challenges", American Library Association, September 19, 2023. (Accessed October 10, 2023)