Survey Shows Stark Increase in Librarian Self-Censorship


In 2008, School Library Journal conducted a Controversial Books Survey with the purpose of collecting data on censorship in 655 elementary, middle, and high school libraries. The survey focused on three areas of interest: whether content labels were used for controversial books, if there was a restricted section for flagged books, and how often a librarian would avoid buying a book due to its content. The results of the survey revealed that 11% of the schools used content labels, 10% of them had a restricted section, and 87% of librarians passed on books due to inappropriate content.

Recently, School Library Journal gave the same survey to 574 elementary, middle, and high school libraries to obtain more up-to-date data on censorship. The survey reveals that now 24% of the schools use content labels, 28% of them have a restricted section, and 87% of librarians pass on books due to inappropriate content. This increase in self-censorship stems from librarians becoming more cautious with books with controversial material. 29% of those surveyed said they find themselves weighing controversial subjects matters more now than they did a couple of years ago, which they attribute to both books being more graphic and people taking more offense with the content. More than 40% also faced book challenges at school, mainly from parents, and 25% of them said those challenges affected their book-buying decisions.


~Virginia Keating (653-01)


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One comment on “Survey Shows Stark Increase in Librarian Self-Censorship
  1. KOstudent says:

    I appreciated the line in the article “Contrary to adult beliefs, if children find a book too difficult, they will let you know that they are not ready for the material.” It’s important to let children and teens make their own decisions. Often times, the things that adults find most objectionable, are only blips on a kid’s radar, hardly worthy of anything beyond a quizzical expression and certainly in no way damaging. This article reminds us, as information professionals, to be aware of our own biases and how that may influence the work we do. It’s also a great reminder to celebrate our freedom to read, whether through organized events like Banned Books Week, or simply taking on open-minded approach to developing our collections. — Crystal Chen, LIS-653-02


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