Libraries: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

Libraries: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

Challenges Facing Public Libraries

  • Public libraries are facing challenges and censorship attempts, becoming a front in the ongoing culture war.
  • Conservatives target school and public libraries, raising concerns about books that they claim are damaging to children and promote child trafficking.
  • The American Library Association documented over 4,200 unique book titles challenged last year, with a 92% increase in censorship attempts at public libraries compared to the previous year.

Book Challenges and Censorship

  • Libraries follow a process called "weeding" to remove outdated or unpopular books, but current challenges focus on removing books based on their content.
  • Libraries have book challenge protocols, but there are legal limits on banning books, especially to protect children from certain ideas or images.
  • Some communities implement broad censorship policies, such as moving books with sexual content away from children's sections, including books about puberty and body parts.
  • Challenges to books often come from highly organized groups, often conservative and religious, who compile and share lists of books to oppose.
  • These groups target books with LGBTQ+ characters or themes, and many challengers admit to not having read the books in full.
  • Groups find problematic books by scanning websites and Facebook pages that list them, and one prevalent book-banning website is called "Moms for Liberty."
  • Book Looks rates books on a scale of least to most objectionable and sometimes includes charts noting the frequency of certain words.
  • Some books on the lists contain explicit content, but the content is often framed in misleading ways.
  • Activists have tried to get books banned from libraries without knowing what's inside them or if the library even has them.

Notable Challenged Books

  • Gender Queer, a graphic novel about an author's struggles with gender identity, is the most frequently challenged book in America for the last three years.
  • Some argue that books like Gender Queer should not be on library shelves because a child could find it, but librarians argue that if a child finds it, it's because they're somewhere they're not supposed to be.

Broader Implications and Responses

  • The debate about restricting access to certain books becomes irrelevant when considering the easy access to explicit content on the internet through devices like phones.
  • Despite efforts to restrict books, these groups often resort to misleading tactics and campaigns to replace library board members with individuals who share their views.
  • Recent attacks on libraries have intensified, with over 100 bills introduced in state legislatures to ban or restrict materials in schools and public libraries.
  • Some states, like Alabama, Arkansas, and Oklahoma, have passed laws allowing the arrest or prosecution of librarians for providing access to certain content.
  • It is crucial to defend libraries and their role in providing diverse resources and serving the needs of their communities, especially in the face of attempts to push LGBTQ+ individuals out of public spaces.
  • Libraries need support to continue fulfilling their mission, including lending out various materials like air fryers, seeds, and popular books like "The Baron Steam Cheaters."

Overwhelmed by Endless Content?