Librarians are seeking not to indoctrinate communities, but to have more representative collections.
The desire to try and stop people from reading certain printed material has been around since material was first printed. In the modern era, book banning has waxed and waned in popularity, experiencing peaks during McCarthyism and again in the 1980s. We’re now in the midst of another wave, mostly targeting books by people of color and LGBTQ identities. In 2022, the number of U.S. attempts to ban books hit the highest point since tracking began more than 20 years ago, according to the American Library Association. Not all of the 1,269 attempts last year were successful in actually removing books from shelves, but many were, and several were the result of efforts by coordinated groups with political ties. John Szabo, the head of the Los Angeles Public Library, has dealt with the challenges of library systems of all sizes all over the country, and now leads the nation’s largest. He joins Nadine Strossen, the former president of the American Civil Liberties Union and an expert in constitutional law, at the 2022 Ideas Festival for a conversation about why book banning is so alluring for some, and antithetical to the purpose and mission of a library. The Aspen Institute’s Elliot Gerson moderates the discussion.