Fewer Book Challenges, but a Sharp Rise in Titles Removed from School Libraries | SLJ Censorship Survey

The incidence of books removed from school library shelves due to a book challenge has risen to 30 percent, up from 19 percent in 2022. The rise in book removals occurred across school levels: elementary, middle, and high schools.


The incidence of books removed from school library shelves due to a book challenge has risen to 30 percent. That’s up from 19 percent in 2022, according to SLJ’s Controversial Books survey. The rise in book removals occurred across school levels, from elementary and middle schools to high schools.

This despite a decrease in school librarians reporting that they have ever experienced a book challenge. Per the national survey fielded in May 2023, four out of 10 respondents have directly faced a book challenge (38 percent). In 2022, 43 percent reported they had, at some point, had a book challenge leveled against them.

The decrease occurred in elementary and middle schools, data shows, while the percentage of high school librarians having undergone a book challenge is largely unchanged from last year.

“It’s interesting in the comments that some said ‘book remained’ while others said ‘book removed’—and both were talking about books moved from one type of school to another (usually middle school to high school),’ wrote SLJ research manager Laura Girmscheid, in the report.

Comments from respondents

What was the result of the challenge?

Selected comments

Book remained

Book remained but was moved up to a higher grade level library.

Book remained

I had to remind the administrator that we have a challenge policy and that even moving the book to a restricted area is a form of censorship.

Book remained

It was determined not to remove book from school, however the mother has never returned the book to school.

Book remained

The first challenge was by a parent which resulted in the book being kept after our process was followed, including a vote by the School board. The second challnge was by a Board member and the superintendent and principal decided to remove the book before a formal challenge was submitted.

Book remained

The parent challenged the book on social media, not through official channels.  Then the book was brought to a board of ed meeting.

Book removed

Book was removed from English curriculum but a copy remained in the library.

Book removed

Principal removed the book without following the challenge guidelines

Book removed

The parent defaced the book so we were forced to remove the book.

Still under review

I'm still working on it and it looks like we're heading in the right direction to have the book returned. But I've created documentation to show that the removal of this book would be a breach of public promises as a school.


Learn more about the survey results in our feature coverage “Book Challenges Are Having a Chilling Effect on School Librarians Nationwide | SLJ Survey,” by Marlaina Cockcroft.


You can download the full report here.

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Kathy Ishizuka

Kathy Ishizuka is editor in chief of School Library Journal.

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