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Conversations on censorship: Nashville public, school libraries talk Banned Books Week

ALA: The number of attempts to ban or restrict books in libraries is on track to exceed record counts from 2021
banned books 2021
Posted at 5:05 PM, Sep 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-21 18:50:25-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF)  — This week is Banned Books Week, and libraries around Nashville are actually putting some of these controversial novels front and center.

Tennessee banned more books from school libraries in the past year than all other states except Texas, Pennsylvania and Florida, according to PEN America. There were 349 books banned across six school districts.

Nationally, efforts to ban books seem to be reaching a new level.

The American Library Association says 1,651 unique titles were targeted in the last eight months. In 2021, ALA reported 729 attempts to censor library resources, targeting 1,597 books, which represented the highest number of attempted book bans since ALA began compiling these lists more than 20 years ago.

At the Nashville Public Library, visitors can easily find many of the banned books.

"This is really not about trying to change those decisions. It is an opportunity to remind folks if you want to check out those books or discover those books, you can always do that here at your public library for free," said Andrea Fanta, marketing and communication director at the Nashville Public Library.

Some Metro Nashville Public School libraries, like the one at Thurgood Marshall Middle School, also carry books on the banned list. The school librarian says the books do more good than harm.

"You gain empathy. You become a better person when you see different sides and different perspectives," said Amy Smith, school librarian at Thurgood Marshall Middle School.

Smith said if a contested book makes a student uncomfortable, she'll never force them to read on.

"We're not trying to push books on people. We tell kids all the time. It's so fine if you don't like a book, but we're going to keep it because someone else loves the book and really connected with that book," Smith said.

There are some new laws in Tennessee that address books in public school libraries. One allows a politically appointed panel to remove books by overriding local school board decisions. Another requires school and classroom libraries to catalog and post their collections online.