May 26, 2022

Censorship: Recently Published Book by a U. of Illinois LIS Professor Looks at Why People Challenge Reading Materials

From the University of Illinois:

 While it may be tempting to dismiss as a censor anyone who wants to restrict access to a book, such individuals understand that books are powerful and have the potential to change lives, said Emily Knox, who recently wrote about the people who raise challenges to reading material.

Her new book, “Book Banning in 21st-Century America,” was published in January by Rowman & Littlefield. Knox is a U. of I. professor of library and information science, with an interest in intellectual freedom and censorship.

Unlike other books that have focused on the history of book banning, the legal issues that arise or the policies of public institutions regarding access to books, Knox talks with the people who are raising challenges to the books and looks at why, in a culture that values freedom, they argue for restricting access to books.

“I take the point of view that, for all of us, reading is really powerful,” she said.

Knox looked at 15 case studies of book challenges across the country. The books being challenged included “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” by Sherman Alexie (challenged in three places), and “Invisible Man,” by Ralph Ellison. Knox said books are often challenged on the basis of sexual or political content.

She found several common aspects to the people who raised challenges. Most were parents or caregivers of children between the ages of 4 and 6 or 12 and 16 – periods of major transitions in the lives of young people.

Knox said challengers want public institutions – schools and libraries – to reflect their values, and they see the roles of those institutions as aiding parents in the moral development of their children.

“One aspect of school challenges that make them somewhat different from public library challenges is the issue of coercion. Challengers often take issue with the idea that their children are required to read books with which they disagree,” Knox wrote in the book.

Children’s innocence and their need for protection to preserve that innocence are taken as givens by challengers, she said.

“The issue of protecting children is ubiquitous in the discourse of challengers. For many of them, this is why they challenged a particular book in the first place – to safeguard the minds of the innocent,” Knox wrote.

Read the Complete Article

See Also: Emily Knox’s Web Site

See Also: Additional Info About the Book

See Also: Additional Publications by Emily Knox (Many Available on the Web)


About Gary Price

Gary Price ( 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, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.