Book bans infringe on parents’ decisions for their children
The EveryLibrary Institute, a public policy think tank for libraries, and Book Riot, the largest independent editorial book site in North America, announced the results of a comprehensive survey of parents about their perceptions of public libraries and the current issues that libraries face.
The "Public Libraries and Book Bans - Parent Perception Survey" gathered insights from 853 parents and guardians with children under 18 during September 2023. The survey asked parents and guardians to share their experiences and opinions about book bans, their trust in libraries and their understanding of librarians' book selection process, and their feelings on sensitive subjects in children's books, such as sex, LGBTQ+ characters and themes, race, and social justice issues in reading and literature. The survey results are detailed in a new report from EveryLibrary Institute and Book Riot.
Top-level findings are:
67 percent of respondents agree or somewhat agree that “banning books is a waste of time”.
74 percent agree or somewhat agree that book bans infringe on their right to make decisions for their children (42% agree; 32% somewhat agree).
92 percent of all respondents say that they feel their child/children are safe at the library.
58 percent think librarians should be primarily responsible for what books are selected in the public library.
57 percent say that reading opens children up to new ideas, new people, and new perspectives, and 44 percent say that teens should have access to books on controversial subjects and themes.
43 percent report that their local library has age restrictions on children’s library card borrowing privileges;19 percent report that there are no restrictions on the child’s card; and 37 percent are unsure.
A majority of respondents (53%) do not know how librarians decide what books should be in a library collection.
A supermajority (66%) of respondents said ‘no’ when asked if a book that their child checked out made them (the parent) uncomfortable; 67 percent said ‘no’ when asked if their child has ever been uncomfortable with a book they checked out.
Parents and guardians are more comfortable with a child accessing age-appropriate children's books related to "social justice" and "race/racism" than they are with a child accessing age-appropriate children's books related to "LGBTQ+ characters" and "puberty and sexual education" themes.
Findings suggest that parents feel their children are safe at the library and believe they should be the ones to make decisions about what books their child reads. Most parents do not support book bans and believe they infringe on their rights. Parents are more comfortable with children accessing age-appropriate books related to social justice and race than LGBTQ+ themes and sexual education. Respondents are largely unaware of how librarians decide what books to include in the library collection. Many respondents believe that some books in children's sections are inappropriate.
"Our report sheds light on the perceptions of parents regarding public libraries and the current issues they face," John Chrastka, EveryLibrary Institute executive director, said. "We are dedicated to empowering libraries to provide exceptional services that meet the unique needs of parents. The results of this survey can be used to improve library services and address parents' concerns, ultimately leading to better experiences at the library for parents and their children."
"This research is vital and necessary in our collective efforts to champion literacy, support libraries and librarians, and understand parental perceptions around the role of the public library," Vanessa Diaz, managing editor at Book Riot, said. "We're excited to see the results of this research shared and hope it will encourage conversation and inspire change."
"By gathering insights from parents, we hope to generate a body of informative and thought-provoking material that sheds light on the complex issues surrounding book bans and censorship," Kelly Jensen from Book Riot said. "Our ultimate goal is to foster an open dialogue around these issues and to support libraries and their users in navigating this challenging landscape."
Please review the complete survey findings and download a copy of the report at https://www.everylibraryinstitute.org/parent_perceptions_survey_2023. This survey is the first in a series of three focusing on parents and libraries. Please watch for additional surveys on perceptions of school libraries and perceptions of librarians in fall 2023.
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