Texas on Pace to Lead the Nation in Banned and Challenged Books for a Second Year in a Row
If you live in Texas, you are at the epicenter of efforts to scrub library shelves of books that do not conform to a very narrow worldview, one that does not reflect the diversity of communities, beliefs, and life experiences of the people who live here.
Texas, once again, is leading the nation in banned and challenged books. Most troubling is that the majority of the books being challenged and removed from public and school library shelves are books by authors who are part of and write about traditionally marginalized communities, most commonly these authors are people of color or members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Attempts to ban books in public libraries increased by 20% over last year's total in the first eight months of 2023.
Book Bans Are Not Only About Books
Here's the thing: Books don't jump off shelves and force themselves upon unsuspecting readers. Books also do not insist that they be finished by readers who find what they have to say objectionable. Books can and have changed the world, but they are themselves passive objects. It takes human interaction for them to have any effect. They are very easily closed and returned whence they came.
Those are undeniable facts. This leads us to conclude that book bans are not just about books. Book bans are political statements. They are about silencing voices that speak uncomfortable truths. They are about forcing beliefs on others by limiting dissenting voices. They are about protecting systems and traditions that benefit the censors to the detriment of others. They are about reverting to a time when people of color and LGBTQ+ people were banished to the margins of society. They are about control.
About HCPL Collections
All HCPL materials are carefully evaluated prior to purchase and are cataloged, shelved, and labeled for their appropriate age groups. Harris County is a diverse community, and not all books are right for all families. It is HCPL's duty to provide a wide range of materials and allow patrons to decide what is appropriate for themselves and their families. The library has always encouraged parents and caregivers to be active participants in their children’s reading lives so they can choose books that reflect their own beliefs and values. Just as importantly, we encourage all patrons to respect others' right to do the same.
How Harris County Public Library defends your freedom to read as you see fit
Harris County Public Library is duty-bound to serve all the people of Harris County. It says so right in the name. We are a public library.
- HCPL is a designated Book Sanctuary: On Tuesday, September 19, 2023, Harris County Commissioners passed a unanimously passed a resolution that committed the County and HCPL to protecting your freedom to read, to continue to make endangered books available to the public, and to educate the public about past and current threats to intellectual freedom. Read the Resolution
- Library for All: Harris County Public Library strives to create a welcoming & inclusive environment where all people feel they belong: All races and ethnicities. All ages. All capabilities. All beliefs. All genders and orientations. Visit Library for All
- HCPL is a fine-free library: we believe that late fees disproportionately affect lower-income families and can prevent people from accessing the materials, resources, and services they need to change their lives for the better. HCPL does not charge fees when materials are returned late.
- We are responsive: We take all feedback from the communities we serve seriously and give them their due attention. We constantly evaluate collections and policies in order to make our libraries places where all patrons can learn and grow.
What you can do to defend your right to read as you see fit
Book bans are happening here and now. If you care about your right to read and your children's right to read, here are ways to protect your freedom
Learn more and stay informed.
In conjunction with National Library Week, each year, the American Library Association releases a list of the most challenged books of the previous year. In 2022, they tracked 1,269 challenges to library, school, and university materials. Of the 2,571 unique titles that were challenged or banned in 2022, here are the top 13 most challenged.