January 28, 2022

New Report From MIT Looks at Banned Books at Public and School Libraries Across Massachusetts

Here are a few details about a new report from MIT’s Center for Civic Media.

From a Blog Post by Chris Peterson on the Center’s Blog:

As readers of the Civic blog may remember, last year I mapped banned books across America, using data publishedby the American Library Association. My goal was to learn something about trends and patterns in banned and challenged books. Did red states challenge more books than blue states? Rich more than poor? Had the types of titles or topics changed over time? Could you track the rise and fall of Harry Potter or Captain Underpants through records of reports?

This turned out to be a harder project than I imagined. The data was quite incomplete due to collection constraints, sampling biases, and modeling choices. The ALA has a very difficult (and very important) job: providing first line support to librarians on every imagineable issue. The data in this archive was collected primarily through found media reports or through report forms sent in to the ALA’s offices. Banned and challenged book records are always underreported at variable rates: on the map I made, Texas has lots of records, but that’s in part due to a very active state ACLU which has a much higher reporting rate.

This incompleteness seemed like an interesting problem to try to tackle. Now, all data are always already incomplete, and incomplete in particular ways. You can never have “all the data.” But you might design systems, processes, and procedures which allow you to capture different data. Comparing multiple data sets, modeled in multiple ways, usually provides the most compelling picture.

Read the Complete Blog Post

More About the Report in this Post From Muck Rock


About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.