PORTLAND, Ore. (KGW) — The Oregon Intellectual Clearinghouse, operated by the State Library of Oregon, has tracked the number of books and materials challenged since 1987. This year, libraries and schools across the state reported more challenges in 2022-2023 than any other year.
A new report shows that 45 challenged incidents were reported within that timeframe. A total of 85 titles were challenged in those incidents, alongside events and programs, setting a new record. The previous record of 70 titles challenges was set back in 1992-1993.
“It really meshes with a pattern that is being seen nationwide,” said Buzzy Nielsen, program manager for Library Support and Development Services at the State Library. “The American Library Association aggregates statistics about challenges. Our Intellectual Freedom Clearinghouse data gets aggregated into their data as well, and last year was a record for them. They saw the most challenges, nationwide.”
Nielsen said in recent years, the most common topics challenged include books by or about LGBTQ+ individuals, or books the objectors consider sexually explicit.
“Challenged materials disproportionately are by or about people from underrepresented groups. LGBTQ+, but also Black, Indigenous and People of Color. Very over represented in the list of books that are challenged,” he said.
Although more books saw challenges — from “The Bluest Eye” to “The Handmaid’s Tale,” to “Heartstopper” and “Milk and Honey” — that doesn’t mean they will be permanently pulled from shelves.
“In Oregon, in the vast majority of cases and materials are retained,” Nielsen said. “That is especially the case in public libraries, and they are typically retained in the section they were originally in.”
It’s not just books that face challenges. Displays, events and programs are scrutinized as well. For example, the report lists seven challenges to Pride displays and one challenge to a library offering materials in Spanish.
“The library really isn’t doing its job if it is not serving all of those people. Just like a police department or a fire department isn’t doing their job if they don’t serve everyone in their community,” Nielsen said. “Yes, there may be something in your library that maybe you do not like. But that’s okay. That means the library is doing its job.”
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