Libraries stand up for everyone’s right to read, even materials that might be considered controversial. This week, the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF)—which tracks censorship attempts in libraries and schools—announced their list of the top 10 most challenged books of 2020.
Last year, OIF tracked challenges and bans to more than 273 books. Many titles were challenged due to content addressing racial justice or including stories of Black, Indigenous, or people of color. Books featuring LGBTQIA+ characters and themes have also long been targets of censorship, and this trend continued in 2020.
Below are the top 10 most challenged books of 2020:
George by Alex Gino Challenged, banned, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds Banned and challenged because of the author’s public statements, and because of claims that the book contains “selective storytelling incidents” and does not encompass racism against all people
All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely Banned and challenged for profanity, drug use, and alcoholism, and because it was thought to promote anti-police views, contain divisive topics, and be “too much of a sensitive matter right now”
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson Banned, challenged, and restricted because it was thought to contain a political viewpoint, it was claimed to be biased against male students, and for the novel’s inclusion of rape and profanity
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct by the author
Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin Challenged for “divisive language” and because it was thought to promote anti-police views
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee Banned and challenged for racial slurs and their negative effect on students, featuring a “white savior” character, and its perception of the Black experience
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck Banned and challenged for racial slurs and racist stereotypes, and their negative effect on students
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicts child sexual abuse
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas Challenged for profanity and because it was thought to promote an anti-police message
There are countless ways to join the celebration, from attending virtual events at your local library to contacting your legislators about library funding. Here are a few of our favorite ways to get involved:
Use the hashtag #NationalLibraryWeek on your favorite social media platforms to be part of the nationwide celebration. People are also using the hashtag #MyLibraryIs to share how their libraries extend way beyond the four walls of their buildings: for you, the library might be the smartphone app you use to check out free ebooks and audiobooks, or a virtual book club hosted by a librarian. Use the hashtag to share what your library means to you! As an added bonus, the American Library Association will select randomly one user to receive a $100 Visa gift card; any post using the hashtag by 12 PM CT on Saturday, April 10 will be eligible to win.
Stop By a Virtual Event
In honor of National Library Week, legendary journalist Dan Rather will join the American Library Association, United for Libraries, and Booklist for a live conversation about library advocacy and his book What Unites Us—tune in on Thursday, April 8 to hear his inspiring words. Your local library may also have virtual programs planned, so check out their website to see what’s happening and join the fun.
Visit Your Library’s Website
One of the easiest ways to support your library is just to visit their website and use their resources! With countless free ebooks, audiobooks, movies, magazines, databases, and more, your library has something entertaining and informative for everyone. Don’t have a library card? Many libraries allow you to register online—visit your local library’s website or contact a librarian to find out more.
Treat Yourself to Library Merch
Show off your library love with these amazing face coverings or a bookish Baby Yoda t-shirt! The best part? Proceeds from these products support the American Library Association’s efforts to promote digital access, combat censorship, and champion much-needed funding for libraries.
The internet has fallen head over hulls for the Ever Given, the container ship whose massive length blocked the Suez Canal for six days last week. Salvage crews have finally managed to free the vessel, but the memes are still flowing online—thanks in part to Boston Public Library (BPL) staff member Garrett Dash Nelson’s Ever Given Ever Ywhere app, which lets you virtually wedge the enormous boat in a location of your choosing.
“People love to localize a national story, something that’s become totally familiar,” Nelson, a curator at BPL’s Leventhal Map & Education Center, told Boston.com. “They love to see it in their own world.”
The app lets you click around a satellite view of the globe to see the Ever Given situated in a variety of settings; you can resize and rotate the ship to ensure it’s perfectly positioned to block your neighborhood, workplace, or favorite world landmark. On Twitter, Nelson and followers have used the tool to wedge the vessel in sports stadiums, theme parks, and Las Vegas resorts.
The possibilities are truly endless. Boat jokes aside, Nelson sees the meme’s popularity as reflecting a greater truth. “It gives a kind of comic reality to this abstract thing, which is world trade and globalization. We all know that we live in a globalized economy pulled by these really incredible forces that stretch across geography,” he told Boston.com. “It can be hard to fully grasp, but then a big old piece of metal gets wedged in a canal. It’s a striking reminder that frictionless global geography is still built on real material circumstances.”
Looking for great books for the little ones in your life? The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) has just launched their Book & Media Awards Shelf, a one-stop shop for finding world-class content for youth.
The website lists almost 2,000 titles that have won ALSC awards over the past century. Each year, the organization’s expert librarians select the very best of children’s literature and media to win honors like the Newbery and Caldecott Medals.
Selections include content for kids aged 0 to 14, reflecting a diverse array of authors, styles, and themes. Book & Media Awards Shelf database lets you filter by genre, format, release date, and more, so that families and educators can find exactly what they’re looking for.
Families have so many children’s books to choose from, and the Book & Media Awards Shelf is a great tool for finding the best options. When you click on a title, the database suggests other award-winning selections in similar genres, helping you find new recommendations based on your old favorites.
Plus, the site doesn’t just have books: it also lists award-winning websites, apps, and more. With kids spending so much time on screens during the pandemic, librarians are an amazing resource for identifying high-quality digital content that educates as well as entertains.
Every day, librarians help people access information, discover the joy of reading, and feel welcome in their communities.
We asked I Love Libraries readers and the American Library Association’s social media followers to share how librarians have impacted their lives over the years. Here are a few of our favorite stories:
“I was 6 years old in first grade and we had a class trip to the library to get our first library card. We had to be able to write our names in script. I was so nervous my hand kept shaking and I couldn't get a legible signature. The librarian took pity on me, took me aside and quietly invited me back for a tour with my mother (thought I would be calmer then) and she would personally have me sign and get my library card as a reward for being such a good reader. I have been reading, of course, ever since. Librarians rock!”—Judith E.
“Ingrid from the Saugatuck-Douglas District Library created an environment of genuine support and growth for new parents and infants in her weekly baby storytime. I started attending storytime when my son was three months old. Through the months and years of attending, he learned to respond and participate in the group, received invaluable social interaction, and was introduced to sensory play. Ingrid set a steadfast example for the new parents and gently guided us to become confident, eager, and sometimes silly caregivers. Through the unknowns and struggles of the early infant months, Ingrid was a constant. I sometimes wonder who benefited more from baby storytime—my son, or me.”—Erika R.
“Middle school is tough and this was no different for me. I was in 8th grade and had moved to a new school. I walked into the library while most students were eating in the school cafeteria. The librarian smiled at me and said, ‘Do you need any help?’ I responded, ‘I love to read but I don’t know what to pick.’ She made a recommendation and I was hooked. I will never forget that she was always happy to see me and I read everything she recommended. Her kindness helped me get through middle school and further instilled a love of reading. You never know how a book can change a student’s life.”—Bay C.
“My daughter's school librarian, Suzanne, provided a port in the storm for our family when we were struck by tragedy. We were not prepared, obviously, and she allowed my daughter to take refuge in the library and find solace in the books and in her gentle presence. It has been 22 years since that awful time, but the memory of Suzanne's kindness has never left me.”—Cindi W.
“My elementary school librarian took the time to notice when I was upset, and she talked it out with me. She just recognized I was hurting, and she listened. Plus, she ran an amazing library. I was her library helper, and I went on to get a master’s in library science. Over 36 years I've enjoyed working in university, corporate, and school libraries. I wish I'd had the opportunity to tell her how much she meant to me.”—Donna H.
“My librarian has changed my life in a multitude of ways. She is a woman who wears many hats, and who carries much wisdom. She always had an answer for my complex questions about school and life. She always knew exactly what to say and when to say it. I was given the honor of working closely with her through work study, but I have learned far much more with her than in any classroom I have ever been in. From helping me with homework to filling out scholarship applications, she’s been by my side. She will always hold a special place in my heart.”—Charity D.
Audiobooks are a great way to fit reading into your daily routine, adding literary flair to your chores, workouts, car rides, and more. For teenagers looking for great reads they can listen to on the go, the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) has released their 2021 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults list.
Selected titles feature powerful stories paired with compelling audio narration. YALSA’s picks come from a diverse range of authors and genres, and selections include audiobooks ranging from just 118 minutes to almost 19 hours.
Here are YALSA’s top 10 audiobook picks for teens:
Clap When You Land, by Elizabeth Acevedo, read by Melania-Luisa Marte and Elizabeth Acevedo
A Good Girl's Guide to Murder, Book 1, by Holly Jackson, read by Bailey Carr, Melissa Calin, Michael Crouch, Gopal Divan, Robert Fass, Kevin R. Free, Sean Patrick Hopkins, Carol Monda, Patricia Santomasso, Shezi Sardar, and Amanda Thickpenny
Kent State, by Deborah Wiles, read by Christopher Gebauer, Lauren Ezzo, Christina DeLaine, Johnny Heller, Roger Wayne, Korey Jackson, and David de Vries
Legendborn, by Tracy Deonn, read by Joniece Abbott-Pratt
Raybearer, by Jordan Ifueko, read by Joniece Abbott-Pratt
We Are Not Free, by Traci Chee, read by Scott Keiji Takeda, Dan Woren, Ryan Potter, Ali Fumiko, Sophie Oda, Andrew Kishino, Christopher Naoki Lee, Grace Rolek, Erika Aishii, Brittany Ishibashi, Kurt Sanchez Kanazawam, and Terry Kitagawa
When Stars Are Scattered, by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed, read by Faysal Ahmed, Barkhad Abdi, Victoria Jamieson, Omar Mohamed, Robin Miles, Ifrah Mansour, Bahni Turpin, Hakeemshady Mohamed, Sadeeq Ali, Dominic Hoffman, Christine Avila, JD Jackson, and more
TikTok has taken the world by storm, with its catchy, short-form videos driving trends in music, advertising, news, and more.
Libraries and their staff have gotten in on the fun, using the platform to promote their programs and services, share tips and recommendations for readers, and spread the joy of literacy to the masses. While many libraries are still closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, #LibraryTikTok lets us explore the shelves virtually.
Below, check out ten of our favorite library TikToks, from hilarious memes to behind-the-scenes library secrets.
Looking for some great books to add to your to-read pile? Members of the American Library Association’s Graphic Novels & Comics Round Table (GNCRT) have released their 2020 Best Graphic Novels for Adults Reading List, featuring amazing recent titles for readers of all kinds.
“During a difficult year, the committee members and I worked diligently to establish a well-rounded and diverse list—there is something for everyone in this list, from slice of life to horror,” Jessica Jenner, chair of the Best Graphic Novels for Adults Reading List selection committee, said in a press release. “This list is intended to uplift not only the comics medium, but traditionally under-represented voices.”
More information and the full list of picks are available at the GNCRT website. Here are the top ten selections:
Be Gay, Do Comics, by The Nib
Big Black: Stand at Attica, by Frank "Big Black" Smith, Jared Reinmuth, and Améziane
Come Home, Indio, by Jim Terry
House of X / Powers of X, by Jonathan Hickman, Pepe Larraz, and R.B. Silva
Invisible Kingdom, by G. Willow Wilson and Christian Ward
Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio, by Derf Backderf
Making Comics, by Lynda Barry
Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, by Damian Duffy and John Jennings
Sentient, by Jeff Lemire and Gabriel Hernandez Walta
Something is Killing the Children Vol. 1, by James Tynion IV and Werther Dell'Edera
Libraries have always been cornerstones of their communities, and during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve transformed their services to connect people with the resources they need while maintaining social distancing.
But while libraries are among our nation’s important institutions, many are woefully underfunded. New federal legislation would help fix that, providing much-needed upgrades to library infrastructure, especially in the country’s most underserved communities.
Sponsored by Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR), the Build America’s Libraries Act would provide $5 billion in funding to repair, modernize, and construct library facilities in the communities that need it most.
Libraries could use the funding for critical projects like upgrading outdated internet services, expanding accessibility for people with disabilities, updating their facilities to be more environmentally sustainable, and improving their protection against hazards like lead, mold, and COVID-19.
Nationally, public libraries have billions of dollars in assessed facilities needs, including more than $1.5 billion of facilities needs in New York, more than $500 million of needs in Illinois, and more than $250 million of needs for libraries in Washington’s rural distressed counties. Congress hasn’t dedicated federal funding for library facilities in more than 20 years. The Build America’s Libraries Act is an opportunity to provide long overdue support to libraries and the communities they serve.
If the act passes, Institute of Museum and Library Services will distribute funding through state library agencies, which will prioritize assistance to libraries serving marginalized communities. Public libraries, tribal libraries, and state libraries serving the general public would all be eligible for funding support.
It only takes a few moments to contact your representative and senators and ask them to co-sponsor the Build America’s Libraries Act. Just enter your name and information in ALA’s action center, modify the template message if you’d like, and hit send. Your support could help make an impact for America’s libraries and the communities they serve for generations to come.
Over the past year, Duncan, Arizona has been rocked by suicides, but the rural town of only 800 residents has limited access to mental health professionals. There aren’t any psychologists in Duncan, and the high school doesn’t have a mental health counselor. But it does have a library.
When the Duncan Public Library (DPL) surveyed the community to identify needs, locals shared they were deeply in need of resources and support. “I asked a couple of parents and they all wanted to talk about mental health,” DPL director Ashlee Germaine told I Love Libraries.
With this information in hand and the belief libraries can be vital centers of healing, Germaine is launching a monthly series of mental health-related book and movie talks.
Each month, residents will come together to discuss movies or books related to mental health. The first pick, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, is particularly resonant with teens, but Germaine hopes future selections will bring in younger kids and adults as well.
Germaine will co-lead the discussions with a professional crisis counselor from a nearby town, giving locals a much-needed opportunity to connect with a professional. DPL also plans to offer monthly grief counseling services to those in need.
“Many residents have come to Duncan in search of a quiet, rural lifestyle. But the realities of scarce medical resources, especially mental health resources, have become especially pronounced as the dangers of coronavirus infection reduce social opportunities for residents and leave some individuals dangerously cut off from others,” she said. This series, she noted, “will allow our library to get to know our residents better and help us build a happier and healthier community for our families.”
Funding for the DPL’s series comes from a grant from the American Library Association’s Public Programs Office. The Libraries Transforming Communities: Focus on Small and Rural Libraries initiative will support programs at 650 libraries across the country this year, touching on topics including racial justice, nature, local journalism, and the importance of mask-wearing.