LGBTQ+ media advocacy organization GLAAD and EveryLibrary, a national group supporting campaigns against book bans, have announced a new resource to help communities work to defeat book bans and challenges, which predominantly target LGBTQ-inclusive titles and books about race and racism.
Book Bans: A Guide for Community Response and Action,released Tuesday, is designed to help citizens “organize, create authentic messages, and work with media to ensure diverse local voices are heard against book bans and in support of LGBTQ people and all people of color,” says a GLAAD press release.
2022 saw the highest number of challenged books in school and public libraries since the American Library Association started documenting challenges 20 years ago — 2,571 titles, up from 1,858 in 2021 — and the majority of the books were by or about LGBTQ+ people or people of color. There were 1,269 challenges, most of them involving multiple books, compared with 769 in 2021.
“Book challenges seek removal of titles and materials from school and public library shelves, whereas book bans see them successfully removed,” Book Bans explains. “To be clear, there is arguably little difference — books that are challenged and removed are effectively banned, usually until a period of review is completed.”
Writers’ group PEN America found that 96 percent of book challenges were initiated without the written forms most school district policies require. PEN America joined with publisher Penguin Random House, parents, and challenged authors to sue the Escambia County, Fla., School District, and its board last month, alleging school board members banned books and ignored recommendations from its formal review process to return the books to shelves.
GLAAD’s guide offers recommendations on how to organize a diverse local coalition including students, parents, teachers, librarians, LGBTQ+ advocates, authors, health professionals, and clergy members; create fact-based and meaningful messages to inform the community and present to school and library boards; engage news outlets and social media; “inform all in the community including families, businesses, elected officials and taxpayers about the absurdity of book bans, and the threat they pose to vulnerable youth, and the entire community’s safety, prosperity and reputation”; and “hold school and library boards accountable to all taxpayers, ensure proper protocol is being followed in book reconsiderations, and demand necessary reforms to end the skyrocketing and discriminatory wave of book banning,” the news release says.
The guide also spotlights a successful fight against a book ban effort in suburban New Jersey. Community organizers engaged local mental health and child psychologists, a coalition of clergy, educators, librarians, students, and author George M. Johnson, a New Jersey native whose book had been challenged, to draft and deliver essays and statements shared in local and state news media and social media. Johnson’s statement was also delivered at the decisive hearing by Johnson’s mother and aunts, receiving a standing ovation. All challenged books were unanimously returned to the shelves.
“This guide is urgently needed as communities face a skyrocketing number of book ban attempts across the country targeting LGBTQ books and books about race and racism,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in the press release.
“Book bans cannot stand,” she continued. “LGBTQ people and books about us belong in libraries, schools and everywhere. This playbook to push back against book bans will help communities become safer, stronger, and smarter. By using the power of personal storytelling and engaging media, communities can unite with their neighbors, send a signal of welcome and acceptance, and see challenged books return to shelves. Communities who care about each reader and a future where all can be free must get the last word.”
“We are proud to support the work of GLAAD in this unprecedented attack on the LGBTQ community,”, EveryLibrary Executive Director John Chrastka added. “We cannot allow this attempt to erase the lives of millions of Americans through book bans to continue. That’s why we’re committed to providing pro-bono resources to communities who are fighting back. I know this guide will help hundreds of communities respond to the attack on their First Amendment rights and the rights of their LGBTQ friends and family.“