Sep 15, 2022 - News

Here are the "banned books" D.C. library patrons checked out the most

D.C. Public Library banned book checkouts
Data: D.C. Public Library. Note: A banned book is categorized as a book that has been removed from classrooms or libraries due to content. Chart: Tory Lysik/Axios

D.C. readers have checked out banned books from their local library hundreds of times this year, according to the D.C. Public Library system.

Why it matters: Last year, there were around 1,600 documented challenges to books offered in libraries and schools, according to the American Library Association.

Reasons for challenges span from LGBTQ+ content to sexual content to promoting an anti-police message, the ALA said.

  • Many of 2021's challenged books were written by people of color.

Yes, but: D.C. is reading.

  • So far, in 2022, just over 3.8 million items have been checked out of the D.C. Public Library system, including the 1,700 checkouts of top challenged books. Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye,” for example, has been checked out more than 600 times.

State of play: Despite D.C. readers enjoying banned books, our area isn’t immune to book challenges.

  • Earlier this year, Loudoun County public schools removed the graphic novel “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe, citing sexual material. The book remains off the shelves, a county school spokesperson tells Axios.
  • “Gender Queer" and another book “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison, were briefly pulled from Fairfax County Public Schools’ libraries before being returned in 2021.
  • A Virginia Beach court last month rejected a petition that “Gender Queer” was obscene and illegal to sell or lend in the state, per the Washington Blade.

Zoom out: In Virginia, conservative lawmakers have sought to regulate what books are present in schools.

Earlier this year, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, who made involving parents in their children’s education a cornerstone of his campaign, signed a law requiring school divisions to develop a policy of notifying parents if books containing sexual content are used in classroom instruction.

  • The policy must be in place by Jan. 1.
  • Library books would not be considered subject to this policy unless they’re used to complete an assignment.

How to get involved: The D.C. Public Library will celebrate Banned Books Week from Sept. 19 through Sept. 24 with special programming, including discussions and a screening of the movie "The Hate U Give."

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