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Researching Banned or Challenged Books: Resources for Challenge Research

Sources of information about why a particular title has been challenged, with links to lists of challenged or censored titles.

Key Resource

The key resource for researching why a particular title was challenged or banned are the publications of ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom.  The Office maintains information on which books are challenged and why and regularly publishes this information in the Journal of Intellectual Freedom and Privacy, where there may also be discussion of the events surrounding a challenge, and in a compilation published about every three years, most recently in Banned Books: Defending our Freedom to Read, edited by Robert P. Doyle. (Before 2016, similar information was in the Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom.)

Doyle and others used histories of censorship to compile the initial listing of challenged or banned books; this bibliography is in the Guide, as well as included on a list of books on censorship maintained by the ALA Library.

More recent entries are derived from the Journal of Intellectual Freedom and Privacy or Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom.

This publication is available in many libraries around the country, or may be ordered from the ALA Store..

Additional ALA Resources

The Banned Books Week pages on the ALA website offer many ways to look at the challenge data that has been collection.  The links provided here will be of use to students doing research.

Where else to look....

If your library does not have "Banned Books," use the library catalog to locate books on censorship.  Useful subject headings are "Challenged books--United States" or "Censorship--United States."

Many libraries offer databases enabling access to periodicals and newspapers. Ask your librarian about accessing these--or visit your library's website, library card in hand, to access.

Use newspaper indexes such as the following to read coverage of book challenges in the communities where they occurred.

  • LexisNexis - Full-text access to magazines and newspapers, including the New York Times.
  • NewsBank - Full-text articles from major metropolitan newspapers.
  • ProQuest Historical Newspapers™ - Digital archive offering full-text and full-image articles for significant newspapers dating back to the eighteenth century.

Use literature databases such as the following to seek out biographies of authors, book synopses, bibliographies, and critical analysis.

  • Booklist Online - Reviews, awards information, some author information in editorial content
  • Gale Literature Resource Center - Has full-text articles and book reviews, biographical essays.
  • Library and Information Science Source - Full-text and indexed entries from library science literature, including major review sources
  • NovelList - Includes reviews and reading recommendations, reading levels, summaries, and awards books have received.

Often, a general web search of < "[book title]" and (banned or challenged) > will yield up useful articles and blog posts about challenges.  For example, < "looking for alaska" (banned or challenged) > will bring up newspaper coverage--as well as a video by the author--on the censorship challenges faced by Looking for Alaska, by John Green.

Other websites