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Study: School Book-Banning Has Gained Support

by on September 30, 2015

Libraries are meant to be places where anyone can read on any subject, as described in the Library Bill of Rights. So it was concerning to see a Library Journal article that discussed a March 2015 Harris Poll which found that 28% of adults now support book banning in school libraries. In 2011, only 18% of adults supported it.[1] While this poll refers to school libraries specifically, the change in attitude could present implications for public libraries. According to the poll, seven out of ten people feel librarians should “prevent children from borrowing materials that are inappropriate for their age.”[2] Now, it’s true that polls should be taken with a grain of salt. However, it is worrisome that there has been a ten point increase in a small time frame. It would be interesting to compare and see if within the next year, the number of book challenges increases across the country.

It is fascinating that the poll singled out books as needing to be banned more so than TV shows or video games.[3] Personally, I feel video games can be much more harmful to kids given the very graphic nature of some of them. Another remarkable statistic is that three out of ten people “would be more inclined to read a book if it had been banned—and that number increased to 40% if a book was considered ‘controversial.’”[4] This seems contradictory, and Peter Hart of the National Coalition Against Censorship tempered the Harris poll results by stressing that the “questions are so overarching.”[5] What does this conservative trend mean for public libraries? It is hard to predict. Like adults, children should be able to read on a wide range of topics. If there are serious objections to books, it is really up to the parent to limit access. Of course, the issue occurs when there are challenges that attempt to restrict others from reading books thought to be “objectionable.” That is why the ideals of intellectual freedom and the freedom to read are so important, and why librarians will do their best to uphold them.

For Further Reading:

Censorship in Schools
http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/censorshipfirstamendmentissues/censorshipschools

Office of Intellectual Freedom
http://www.ala.org/offices/oif

[1] Lisa Peet, “Harris Poll Shows Growing Support for Book Banning, Ratings,” July 31, 2015, Library Journal, http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2015/07/censorship-2/harris-poll-shows-growing-support-for-book-banning-ratings/

[2] “Adults Are More Likely To Believe There Are Books That Should Be Banned Than Movies, Television Shows, or Video Games,” July 8, 2015, The Harris Poll, http://www.theharrispoll.com/health-and-life/Censorship_2015.html

[3] Ibid.

[4] Peet, “Harris Poll Shows Growing Support for Book Banning.”

[5] Ibid.


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  1. […] Study: School Book-Banning Has Gained Support – The Public Library Association blog reported that a study last spring showed a 10-point increase in the number of parents arguing that school librarians should keep children from borrowing inappropriate material. As the article states: “28% of adults now support book banning in school libraries,” a fact that could have an impact on all libraries. Studies are not always reliable indicators of widespread public opinion, but it is a troubling statistic. […]

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