Book Banning in Utah Libraries
Who decides what books stay or go in Utah’s school libraries?
It’s one of the most insidious trends of recent years: People converge on libraries and demand books be removed because of what they claim is controversial or age-inappropriate content. Particularly fraught are libraries in public school systems which may be at the mercy of school boards or school government that may side with the would-be banners in spite of library missions to the contrary.
Legislators have gotten into the fight, and one such state is Utah. In March 2022, the Utah state government passed HB 374, which gave the state Board of Education, along with the Utah attorney general, the authority to teach public school officials to identify what might be considered sensitive materials. The law does allow some leeway by allowing local educators and parents to weigh in on book decisions, and it also requires each district to develop its book policies and procedures that should be used when considering whether or not to review a book from that library.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, responses to the law were not uniform across the state. One district, the Davis School District, received far more book challenges than any other district, and many districts received no challenges. The Davis district has so far researched 129 challenges, leading to the removal of thirty-eight books from the district system. Another twelve books were removed from only some of the district’s libraries. The next closest was the Alpine district, which received fifty-four challenges and removed twenty-three books.
Davis made news because one of the books challenged was the Bible, which was removed from elementary and middle schools but not high schools. However, the Davis Board of Education voted to restore the Bible to all schools.
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What’s Being Banned in Utah?
As is happening elsewhere in the US, the books most likely to be targeted are written by or about LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC people or books that portray unwed teens having sex. Some of the books most often challenged and removed in Utah districts have appeared in book challenges elsewhere.
The Haters was challenged in seven districts and removed from four.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower was challenged in six districts and removed from none, although two still have it under review.
What Girls Are Made Of was challenged in six districts, removed from three, kept in two, and one is still under review.
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Getting a Book Into — And Out Of — A Utah Library
These books didn’t appear on the shelves without going through a process, as is typical for libraries. Librarians review each book and whether its content is age- and grade-appropriate. But those processes can be tossed aside by people who haven’t read the books, including Granite School District Spokesman Ben Horsley, who noted that his district received ninety-four challenges from only six people — one of whom was him.
But when those challenges come, librarians have to take them seriously and re-review the titles, which means a reduction in the time they can spend on other pressing school library work — including upcoming releases to determine if they’re appropriate for that specific collection.
EveryLibrary believes librarians should be allowed to continue the meticulous, educated approach to filling school library bookshelves without being challenged at every turn. We offer libraries pro bono consulting to help them fight those challenges. While that’s free for libraries, it’s not free for us. Consider donating to help us keep up the good fight against bad book bans.
Visit www.everylibrary.org to learn more about our work on behalf of libraries.
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