How Comics Are Banned

The process to ban a book begins when a person makes makes a complaint.

In public libraries, this process of banning a book begins when a patron makes a formal challenge.  According to the American Library Association: A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.

Most public libraries should have policies in place for managing these challenges, and a book’s fate will be determined according to those policies.

In school libraries, a complaint usually made by a parent, but sometimes by a teacher, and the book’s fate is determined by the school administration according to their policies. According to the Texas ACLU: When a book is challenged, a school may ban it, often permanently; restrict its use to a certain age or class level, or just restrict it for the child whose parents complained; or decide that the book is fine for students and belongs on the shelves.  There are generally three ways to evaluate books: 1) by the librarian or principal; 2) by the school board; or 3) by a review committee.

The American Library Association developed the following list of definitions to clarify terminology associated with challenges:

  • Expression of Concern. An inquiry that has judgmental overtones.
  • Oral Complaint. An oral challenge to the presence and/or appropriateness of the material in question.
  • Written Complaint. A formal, written complaint filed with the institution (library, school, etc.), challenging the presence and/or appropriateness of specific material.
  • Public Attack. A publicly disseminated statement challenging the value of the material, presented to the media and/or others outside the institutional organization in order to gain public support for further action.
  • Censorship. A change in the access status of material, based on the content of the work and made by a governing authority or its representatives. Such changes include exclusion, restriction, removal, or age/grade level changes.

For assistance with challenges to comics, manga and graphic novels, please contact Charles Brownstein, Executive Director, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, 800-99-CBLDF.

For assistance with challenges to comics and other library materials, services, or programs, please contact Angela Maycock, Assistant Director, Office for Intellectual Freedom, 800-545-2433, ext. 4221, or the Office for Intellectual Freedom, 800-545-2433, ext. 4223.