Long Story. . . Long: A More Detailed Look at EveryLibrary and Book Riot’s Parent Poll

What do parents really think about book bans in their children's libraries?

Most parents want to know what their kids are reading but aren’t pushing for book bans.

Our previously published piece, “Long Story Short: EveryLibrary’s Parent Poll,” provided a more compact and digestible version of our parent poll results which EveryLibrary and Book Riot collected. However, since this poll covered an essential problem with wide-reaching implications, we wanted to explore the subject in more depth. 

The topic is, of course, book bans, a widespread and controversial issue that has been in constant discussion over the past few years. Today, we’ll dive deep into the data and what it means for parents, librarians, and children alike.


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The Problem

While book bans present a very broad issue, it is also important to focus on the people those bans would affect. Surprisingly, little of the talk about book bans comes directly from the source. 

Sure, we’ve got plenty of news outlets talking about the actions of politicians, and we have politicians saying they’re fighting for parents’ rights. At the end of the day, though, how often do we hear from the parents themselves? 

Unfortunately, today’s news media and political scenes revolve around a hype-based culture. All too often, big, dramatic, and polarizing statements come first, while facts come second.

The question, then, is obvious. How much of this issue is actually being presented by parents, and how much of it is dramatized or even fabricated to get clicks and votes?

The Goals

The answer, we felt, was simple: The only way to get a straight answer is to cut out the middleman entirely. No more scathing headlines or podium promises—just the raw, unfiltered opinions of concerned American parents.

The news and government officials tend to align themselves with one party or another and adhere fiercely to each and every value of that party. For the rest, though, life just doesn’t work that way.

No important issue is black and white; everything is composed of shades of gray. Looking through those shades of gray is the only way to find the facts of the matter. We hope that by running this poll, we’ve shed some light on the issue and what your average parent thinks of it.


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The Results

So, what did we find in the end? Was it any different than what has already been reported? Short answer: Yes, it was. As expected, it turned out to be a far more nuanced issue than it’s generally presented, with a wide range of varying opinions.

We found that the number of parents who wanted books banned was much lower than your standard sources wanted viewers to believe. Sixty-seven percent of parents felt that book bans infringed on their right to parent their children, and 75 percent had never even encountered content at the library that they felt was inappropriate.

While a smaller issue than initially thought, it’s not a nonissue by any means. Many parents still have concerns about their children’s safety and the content they can access in school libraries. A massive 80 percent of parents, for example, stressed the importance of a content rating system for library books.

Of course, the parents’ opposition to or favor of library content varied greatly depending on the themes the book in question carried. We asked each respondent about four specific themes: LGBTQ+ issues, race and racism, social justice, and sexual education. They were asked to rate each subject’s impact on kids as beneficial, neutral, or negative and rate their own comfort with the subjects as comfortable, neutral, or uncomfortable. 

Fewer than 20 percent of respondents felt that the latter three issues negatively impacted children and were generally comfortable with those topics being discussed. LGBTQ+ issues, however, proved to be much more polarizing. In both the impact and comfort questions, LGBTQ+ issues had the lowest number of neutral responses, as well as the highest number of explicitly negative responses.

Opinions of the library itself, though, were overwhelmingly positive. Eighty-five percent of respondents said they trusted their librarians, and the overwhelming majority of parents (an incredible 92 percent!) felt the library was a safe space for their children. 


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The Significance

With these results in mind, school and public librarians have their work cut out for them. While they don’t need to start pulling books from the shelves, they may need to help put the parents at ease. Whether this is through notifying parents of checkouts or implementing a content rating system, a little bit of legwork will greatly improve the sense of goodwill between citizens and librarians.

In addition, there are questions and doubts surrounding social issues. We believe that it’s important for children to learn about social issues, but many respondents had clear misgivings. The most important thing you can do in this scenario is approach the matter with compassion and understanding. No matter how strongly you disagree with a parent’s views, there is always a reason behind them. Reaching a mutual understanding can help you determine how to teach these issues in a way that the parents will approve of.

Most important, though, is the fact that the public opinion of libraries has remained largely unchanged. While some would have you believe that outraged parents are protesting libraries left and right, this simply isn’t the case. Parents regard libraries as the same safe spaces as always, and at the end of the day, there are few things more important than that. Keep doing what you’re doing, librarians, and you’re sure to make a difference.

If you’d like to learn more about the fight against book bans, visit us at EveryLibrary today!



Visit www.everylibrary.org to learn more about our work on behalf of libraries. 

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This work by EveryLibrary is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0