More than nine out of ten elementary and middle school librarians have not bought a book recently because of the potential for controversy. That’s just one finding from SLJ’s 2016 Controversial Books Survey, which addresses self-censorship and updates our landmark 2008 self-censorship survey. An invitation to participate in the 2016 study was emailed to a random sampling of school librarians serving all K–12, and respondents were assured that their answers would remain anonymous. 573 U.S.–based school librarians participated.


Survey Responses

Read school librarians’ responses to three survey questions using this interactive resource.

Weighing Subject Matter

When making purchasing decisions, do find yourself weighing the effect of controversial subject matter more often now than you did one or two years ago? If Yes, why?

Age Appropriateness

How do you determine if a book is age appropriate?

General Comments

Please tell us about a book challenge you personally experienced or communicate any other information related to this topic.



D.I.Y. Censorship: An SLJ Infographic

Download this visual representation of key findings.

Controversial Books Survey Word Clouds

School librarians mentioned these things the most in their open comments (click to view full word clouds).


Survey & Analysis

Data and Findings

Download the Controversial Books Survey report.

Unnatural Selection: More Librarians Are Self-Censoring

Restricting books with controversial content is on the rise in school libraries.

All Schools Need Book Challenge Policies

Jamie LaRue, director of ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom, responds to SLJ's survey and points to resources that help librarians create policies and field challenges.

Comparing Librarians’ and Teachers’ Self-Censoring Patterns

Our survey confirms impressions the NCAC and NCTE have gained from intervening in book censorship controversies around the county.


Related Reading from SLJ 

Scales on Censorship 

Get strategic insight and guidance from this series of columns by Pat Scales, the former chair of ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee, who expertly fields librarians’ questions related to censorship.

More on Censorship





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