“If you don’t like a children’s book that’s on the shelf, don’t let your children read it,” Dayton Metro Library Executive Director Jeffrey Trzeciak said. “That’s a conversation between you and your child. But you don’t get to tell other people what their children can and cannot read. It’s really that simple.”
The American Library Association documented a record 1,269 demands to ban library books in 2022, the highest number of censorship attempts since ALA began compiling the data more than 20 years ago.
The number is nearly twice the 729 challenges reported in 2021.
The push primarily comes from book lists generated by organized censorship groups, according to the Library Association. Of the overall number of books challenged, 90% were part of attempts to censor multiple titles, and 40% were in cases involving 100 books or more.
Of the titles targeted for censorship, the vast majority were written by or about the LGBT community and people of color.
“As your public library, we are standing firm and saying that we don’t ban books,” Trzeciak said.
The library system currently has a traveling exhibit standing in the lobby of downtown Dayton’s main library, titled “Americans and the Holocaust.” The display examines the motives and fears that shaped Americans’ responses to Nazism during the 1930s and 1940s.
“Very early during the Nazi era, one of the first things they did was ban books, books either by Jewish authors or about Jewish culture,” Trzeciak said. “And we’re seeing very similar movements here today, with local bans, in terms of erasing voices of African Americans and the LGBTQ community.”
To challenge a book at Dayton Metro Library, a person must fill out a request for reconsideration, Trzeciak said. Once the request is received, the book is reviewed by a panel of librarians who specialize in the age group the book is for.
In the last two years, five books or other materials at Dayton Metro have been challenged, including “Avengers: Endgame,” and “Ritu Weds Chandni.” All five materials remain on the Dayton Library’s shelves.
“Making DML a Book Sanctuary reinforces our commitment to provide our community with diverse, inclusive materials and services and to protect (our patrons’) freedom to read,” Steve Moser, teen services librarian at the Trotwood Branch told the DML board of trustees in February.
As part of being a book sanctuary, the library will actively purchase titles that have been banned in other locations, and protect those materials from censorship, according to the library board’s resolution. The library also provides book talks, clubs, and programs on diverse themes and characters, and resources on the history of book banning and the importance of protecting intellectual freedom.
The library’s collection is available to everyone, and library patrons are able to make their own choices in what they view, read or listen to, and parents have the right to determine what is appropriate for their child, Trzeciak said.
“If you don’t like a book, don’t read it. It doesn’t give you the right to tell others what to read,” Trzeciak said.