League of Women Voters invites residents to book ban discussion

By: Mary Beth Almond | Birmingham-Bloomfield Eagle | Published October 9, 2023

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BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP — While there have been no recent requests to ban books in the township, there’s a rise in challenges to books in public libraries across the country, and a local group wants to talk about it.

According to the American Library Association, the situation is “evidence of a growing, well-organized, conservative political movement, the goals of which include removing books about race, history, gender identity, sexuality, and reproductive health from America’s public and school libraries that do not meet their approval.”

Last year, the ALA documented 1,269 requests to censor library books and resources —  the highest number of attempted book bans since the ALA began compiling data about censorship in libraries more than 20 years ago. A record 2,571 titles were targeted for censorship, according to the ALA, with most written by or about members of the LGBTQ community and people of color.

So far this year, the ALA is reporting that there were nearly 695 attempts to censor library materials and services and documented challenges to 1,915 unique titles  — a 20% increase from the same reporting period in 2022.

The League of Women Voters of Oakland Area is hosting a free presentation called “Beyond Banning Books – Protect Your Right to Read” at 1 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 26, at the Bloomfield Township Public Library, 1099 Lone Pine Road. The event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

“We have been trying to have monthly presentations … and with every one of these events, we try to hit on topics that are a priority with the league. We’ve done one on gun violence. We did one on money and politics. We did one on women’s history month, and this one will be about the book banning movement that seems to be pervasive. It’s all over the country, and it’s very serious,” said Maria Woloson, the president of the League of Women Voters of Oakland Area.

Bloomfield Township Library Director Tera Moon, who is also a member of the League of Women Voters of Oakland Area, said the national trend of attempting to ban books and holding library funding hostage are “real threats to our democracy.”

“Censorship of any books, or putting limits on citizens’ right to read what they want, is such a slippery slope and a dangerous place to go, because if one book gets banned or outlawed, it might never stop,” she said. “And I think that silences voices and it’s a fundamental right of democracy to be able to read what you want. If we want citizens to be informed, they have to be able to read what they want.”

Moon will provide an update on what’s happening locally and nationally with challenges to books and reading in public libraries and will share possible actions the public can take.

“I’m going to give an overview of book challenges and censorship in the country, as it is right now, with a focus on Michigan, and talk about some of the more serious challenges that are occurring. I also plan to talk about ways that public libraries prepare for these kinds of challenges — the policies we have in place, and the procedures we have in place, for when something like this happens. I also hope to give folks some ideas of things that they can do as private citizens to support public libraries and support people’s first amendment right to read whatever they want,” she said.

Locally, at the Bloomfield Township Public Library, Moon said she is not aware of any specific book challenges in recent years.

“Since I have been the library director, we have not had any challenges to any specific titles, so in this community we have been very fortunate to not have that happen, but I keep my eye on it, and we talk about it in our leadership meetings, and as the Board of Trustees, so I definitely have been paying attention and watching this happen,” she said.

Conservative groups have said that some of the requests are not for outright bans but to move books with sexually explicit content out of children’s sections, and that library collections stock far more progressive and left-leaning content than conservative or right-leaning content, so liberal groups request bans less frequently because conservative content is less likely to be included in collections in the first place, being, according to conservatives, unfairly labeled as misinformation or hate speech.

For more information about the event or the LWVOA, visit https://my.lwv.org/michigan/oakland-area, email LWVOAMi@gmail.com or call (248) 594-6602.