According to the American Library Association, a challenge is “an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group . . . thereby restricting the access of others.”1 The Library Research Service annually collects data on challenged materials as part of the Colorado Public Library Annual Report.
In 2006, out of the 115 public libraries in Colorado, 23 reported that they received a formal challenge during the year. There were a total of 89 individual challenges to books, materials, events, exhibits, and Internet-related services in the state’s public libraries. Challenges to Internet content or access policies are reported separately from materials and event challenges. There were 63 challenges to materials and events. This was the lowest number of challenges to materials and events since 2003 (see Chart 1).
In 2006, 6 Colorado public libraries reported challenges to Internet content or access policies. A total of 26 individual challenges were reported. This is nearly 4 times the number of Internet-related challenges reported in 2005.
A follow-up survey was sent to all 23 libraries who reported a formal challenge. This survey requested the title, author, format, reason for the challenge, action taken by the library, and the date of the publication or incident regarding each challenge. Twenty of the 23 libraries responded to the follow-up survey.
The follow-up survey received detailed information for 49 challenges to books, materials, events, and exhibits. Of these challenges 40 (82%) resulted in no change being made by the staff regarding the location, availability, description, or classification of the item (see Chart 2). Seven items (14%) were moved to another part of the library or reclassified. The action was dropped by the individual who filed the challenge in 1 case (or 2%).
Of the 26 Internet-related challenges reported in the Public Library Annual Report, the follow-up survey received information for 13 challenges. Six cases resulted in no change, in three cases the action was dropped, and in 2 cases the Internet-related matter was restricted. For the remaining 1 case, the reporting library chose other for the action but did not provide more detailed information.
Following the trend of the previous years, books were the most challenged format in 2006 according to the result of the follow-up survey. Almost half (47%) of all challenges in Colorado public libraries involved books (see Chart 3). Less than one-quarter (22%) involved Internet-related services (i.e. computer) and video materials accounted for less than one-fifth (17%) of the challenges. Challenges involving music CDs, periodicals, activities, and audio books together totaled over one-tenth (12%) of all challenges.
In 2004, the figures indicated a possible trend in which videos would begin to account for a greater proportion of challenged materials (see Chart 4). However, a more recent examination of the types of materials challenged indicated that computer (i.e. Internet-related) services are increasingly being challenged. The percentage of Internet-related challenges rose dramatically from 3 percent in 2005 to 22 percent in 2006. In spite of these fluctuations, books continue to be the most challenged format.
In the follow-up survey, more than 1 audience/age group type may be chosen for each formal challenge. More than half (51%) of all challenges for 2006 were considered challenges to adult materials (see Chart 5). In 2006, there was only 1 more challenge to children’s materials (20) than to young adult (19) materials.
Although challenges to adult materials fell from 63 percent in 2005 to 51 percent in 2006 (see Chart 6), they continue to be challenged more frequently than materials in other age categories. Interestingly the percentage of challenges to children’s or young adult materials fluctuates rather more from year to year. The proportion of challenges to young adult materials grew steadily from a low of 17 percent in 2003 to 30 percent in 2006. Whereas challenges to children’s materials went from 36 percent in 2003 to a record low 15 percent in 2005, and then rose again in 2006 to 30 percent.
Reasons for Challenges
Responding libraries are also asked to report the patron’s reason for the challenge. Multiple reasons can be selected. In 2006, the reasons most commonly cited were due to materials being sexually explicit or unsuited for the intended age group (See Table 1). The “other” category includes reasons not listed on the follow-up survey.
The only title to be named multiple times in a formal challenge to non-Internet related materials in 2006 was Justin Richardson’s And Tango Makes Three. This title was mentioned in 2 separate challenges. Richardson’s book was also the most frequently challenged book nationally in 2006 according to the ALA.2
The remaining 61 challenges to books, materials, events, and exhibits were a variety of individual titles.
Go to http://www.lrs.org/documents/plstat06/challenges_details_06.pdf to view the entire Challenges to Materials at Colorado’s Public Libraries report for 2006.3 The challenge reports for previous years may also be viewed at http://www.lrs.org/pub_stats.php.
- ALA Challenged and Banned Books page (accessed October 12, 2007) http://www.ala.org/ala/oif/bannedbooksweek/challengedbanned/challengedbanned.htm#wbc ▲
- ALA. “And Tango Makes Three” tops ALA’s 2006 list of most challenged books. (March 6, 2007). Accessed November 13, 2007 from http://www.ala.org/Template.cfm?Section=News&template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=151926 ▲
- Challenges to Materials at Colorado’s Public Libraries, 2006 (accessed October 12, 2007). http://www.lrs.org/documents/plstat06/challenges_details_06.pdf ▲