Library Book Banning Statistics

Over the last several years, libraries in the United States have become the country’s most dominant source of book banning. This especially applies to school and public libraries, where most of the book challenges occur.

In this report, we’re breaking down historical data on book banns and challenges that took place in US libraries over the last 20 years. We’ll also show how often the source of these ban challenges is librarians themselves.

How many books are banned in US libraries?

While most of the book bans and challenges remain unreported, publicly available data show that most ban proposals come from US libraries. Challenges were exceptionally high during 2021, and the share of library challenges was as big as ever during this period:

  • There were over 1,129 registered book-banning challenges occurring in US libraries during 2022, a 91.03% increase over already record-setting 2021.
  • 591 book-banning challenges in the US occurred in libraries in 2021. This was a 556.67% increase compared to 2020, which was heavily impacted by Covid-19 lockdowns.
  • Most book challenges include multiple titles, meaning that the number of challenged books is much bigger.
  • From 2014 to 2022, the number of library book ban challenges has jumped by 642%.
  • The number of challenges has been increasing every year except for a 0.7% drop in 2018.
YearTotal library challengesChange
20221,12991.03%
2021591556.67%
202090-71.96%
201932112.63%
2018285-0.70%
201728728.70%
201622326.70%
201517615.79%
2014152-46.10%
2000-2009 average282-20.79%
1990-1999 average356
  • 89% of all book-banning efforts in the US during 2022 occurred in US libraries, a 9.88% increase over 2021.
  • In 2021, 81% of all book-banning challenges occurred in US libraries, which is 39.6% more than in 2020.
  • During 2019, over 85% of all book challenges in the US took place in school and public libraries, the highest share of library challenges recorded at least since the 1990s.
  • Contrary to that, in 2014 “only” 49% of challenges were happening in US libraries, the least over the last 30 years.
  • Library bans during the 90s accounted for 60% of total challenges, and this number dropped to 54% over the 00s.
  • However, since 2014, library challenges’ share in the total number of bans has kept rising again, jumping from 49%.
YearShare of library challenges in total challengesChange
202289.00%9.88%
202181.00%39.66%
202058.00%-31.76%
201985.00%3.66%
201882.00%1.23%
201781.00%17.39%
201669.00%7.81%
201564.00%30.61%
201449.00%-9.26%
2000-2009 average54.00%-10.00%
1990-1999 average60.00%

Public library book bans in the US

Public US libraries were the most frequent place of book challenges during the second decade of the 21st century, but school libraries have taken over since 2021. Prior to that, public library bans accounted for roughly a quarter of all challenges in the country:

  • US public libraries registered over 609 book challenges during 2022, a 61.99% increase over already record-setting 2021.
  • 270 out of 729 book challenges during 2021 occurred in US public libraries, a 302% increase compared to 2020.
  • This was the highest recorded number of public library challenges in the United States over at least the last 30 years.
  • With the exception of pandemic-affected 2020, the number of public library book bans increased every year during the second decade of the 21st century.
YearPublic library challengesChange
202260961.99%
2021270302.99%
202067-73.09%
201924921.46%
20182053.54%
201719825.32%
201615827.42%
20151245.08%
2014118-1.67%
2000-2009 average120-22.08%
1990-1999 average154
  • Public library challenges constitute 48% of all book challenges in the US as of 2022.
  • Prior to the pandemic, public library bans accounted for over 50% of all book challenges in the United States for 3 straight years.
  • However, during the 90s and 00s, public library bans accounted for only a quarter of all challenges.
  • The highest rate of public library challenges occurred in 2019, when over 66% of all ban challenges in the US occurred in public libraries.
YearShare of public library challengesChange
202248.00%29.73%
202137.00%-13.95%
202043.00%-34.85%
201966.00%11.86%
201859.00%5.36%
201756.00%14.29%
201649.00%8.89%
201545.00%18.42%
201438.00%65.22%
2000-2009 average23.00%-11.54%
1990-1999 average26.00%

School library book bans in the US

The efforts to ban books in US school libraries exploded over the last couple of years. School libraries became the most frequent source of challenges after Covid-impacted 2020, even though they accounted for a minor part of challenges over the last decade:

  • There were 520 registered book-banning challenges in US school libraries during 2022, a 61.99% increase over 2021.
  • Around 321 official challenges to ban books in 2021 occurred in US school libraries. This number is 12.9 times bigger than in 2020, and school challenges were the fastest-growing location for book bans during this period.
  • Even prior to 2020, which saw most of the school libraries inaccessible for a while, when only 23 book challenges occurred, school libraries recorded less than 90 ban efforts annually during the last decade.
  • During the first decade of the 21st century, around 162 book challenges were recorded each year, on average.
  • During the 90s, school libraries were among the most frequently challenging locations, as over 202 annual ban attempts occurred there.
YearSchool library challengesChange
202252061.99%
20213211295.65%
202023-68.06%
201972-10.00%
201880-10.11%
20178936.92%
20166525.00%
20155252.94%
201434-79.01%
2000-2009 average162-19.80%
1990-1999 average202
  • 41% of all book-banning efforts in the US occurred in school libraries during 2022, a 6.82% drop compared to 2021.
  • During 2021, school library book ban efforts accounted for 44% of all challenges in the US, making up for the majority of challenges that year. This was a 193% jump over 2020.
  • Prior to 2021, the share of book challenges occurring in school libraries was declining for 3 straight years.
  • In 2014, school library challenges accounted for only 11% of all book-banning efforts in the US.
  • During the 00s, this share was as high as 31% on average, and during the 90s school libraries accounted for 34% of all book bans, on average.
YearShare of school library challengesChange
202241.00%-6.82%
202144.00%193.33%
202015.00%-21.05%
201919.00%-17.39%
201823.00%-8.00%
201725.00%25.00%
201620.00%5.26%
201519.00%72.73%
201411.00%-64.52%
2000-2009 average31%-8.82%
1990-1999 average34%