On February 17th, I posted a link to a survey that a library school student was doing about book challenges and removals in libraries. Here are the results. Granted, the people who will take the time to fill out this survey are likely interested in book challenges already, so we may get a higher rate of incidents reported. But the results are still disturbing — that challenges and removals of library materials are grossly under-reported to ALA.
Book Challenges and Removals Survey Results
Of the 73 respondents: 9.6% worked at academic libraries, 67.1% worked at public libraries, and 23.3% worked at school libraries.
How many incidents of material challenges have you received in the last five years?
160 challenges reported from 73 respondents (average of 2.19)
How many incidents of material challenges have you reported to the American Library Association Office of Intellectual Freedom in the last five years?
33 challenges reported to ALA (20.6% of the 160 actual challenges)
How many incidents of material removal (following the library’s challenged material policy) are you aware of in the last five years?
23 challenges resulted in removals per the library’s policy (14.4% of the 160 actual challenges)
How many incidents of material removal (bypassing or ignoring the library’s challenged material policy) are you aware of in the last five years?
56 incidents of material removal in violation of the library’s policy (over twice the number of “per policy” removals)
The primary that jumps out at me is the gross under-reporting of incidents to ALA–only 20%! Is this because libraries don’t want the professional stigma associated with challenges (especially removals or book-relocations)? Or is it simply bad record-keeping? Or apathy? I don’t know. But if I was a powerhouse in the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom, I’d be planning a way to figure out if and why this is happening in member libraries.
The other thing that bothers me is that twice as many items are removed ignoring or violating the library’s challenged materials policy as are removed in keeping with the policy. This says to me that people either take it upon themselves to make a decision and just remove something (perhaps to placate an angry interest group or parent) -or- librarians are just too irritated by the formality of the policy (and again, perhaps the stigma) so they just remove the items the easy way by just de-accessioning them from the catalog.
What do you think? Have you experienced, like I have, a “hiding” of materials challenges in your library? Have you seen them go unreported to ALA? Have you experienced customers or library staff removing items or moving items in the collection? Tell me your stories!