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ALA 2021 State of America’s Libraries Special Report: COVID-19

Taken from an ALA Press Release: 4/5/2021


Take a look at page 5, it features a photo of a New Mexico public library…

CHICAGO – Today, the American Library Association (ALA) released its State of America’s Libraries Special Report: COVID-19, a snapshot of the library communities’ resilience, determination, and innovation in unprecedented circumstances. The State of America’s Libraries report is released annually during National Library Week, April 4 – 10, and this year’s issue focuses on the impact of the novel coronavirus on all types of libraries during the previous calendar year.  

Like many public institutions forced to close their doors, libraries worked to adapt to a new way of doing business. Closures did not prevent library workers and libraries from serving their communities. Instead, closed physical space fueled significant innovation and opportunities to assist and support patrons and students. 

As most libraries were closed to in-person visits, libraries accelerated or adopted policies that let users access resources from a safe social distance, including offering digital library cards, creating curbside pick-up programs, and promoting ebook lending, which surged 40 percent over 2019.

Libraries played a significant role in bridging a digital divide that became more apparent during the pandemic. Families, marginalized communities, students, and rural residents struggled as the nation pivoted to virtual communication instead of in-person interactions and learning. Multiple studies cited in the report show that a significant sector of the US population lacks access to computers and broadband as well as the digital literacy skills needed to navigate the internet and ethically use communication platforms like Zoom and social media. Many libraries left their wi-fi on even as their buildings closed.

Coronavirus opened a floodgate of misinformation. Library staff worked to eradicate misinformation about COVID-19, which was infused with xenophobia and especially Sinophobia, resulting in a surge of bigotry against Asian or Chinese people. Throughout 2020, librarians responded to misinformation about vaccines, the census, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the 2020 Presidential Election.

Additional report findings show that attempts to remove library materials continued during the pandemic, despite many libraries and schools closing or moving their activities and services online. The ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) tracks attempts to ban or restrict access to books across the United States and to inform the public about censorship efforts in our libraries and schools. 

In 2020, more than 273 books were affected by censorship attempts. Demands to remove books addressing racism and racial justice or those that shared the stories of Black, Indigenous, or people of color grew in number. At the same time, books addressing themes and issues of concern for LGBTQIA+ people continued to dominate the list. 

Below are the top 10 most challenged books of 2020:

  1.  “George,” by Alex Gino
    Challenged, banned, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, conflicting with a religious viewpoint, and not reflecting “the values of our community”
  2. “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You,” by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
    Banned and challenged because of the author’s public statements, and because of claims that the book contains “selective storytelling incidents” and does not encompass racism against all people
  3. “All American Boys,” by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
    Banned and challenged for profanity, drug use, and alcoholism, and because it was thought to promote anti-police views, contain divisive topics, and be “too much of a sensitive matter right now”
  4. “Speak,” by Laurie Halse Anderson
    Banned, challenged, and restricted because it was thought to contain a political viewpoint, it was claimed to be biased against male students, and for the novel’s inclusion of rape and profanity
  5. “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” by Sherman Alexie
    Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct by the author
  6. “Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice,” by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin
    Challenged for “divisive language” and because it was thought to promote anti-police views
  7. “To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee
    Banned and challenged for racial slurs and their negative effect on students, featuring a “white savior” character, and its perception of the Black experience
  8. “Of Mice and Men,” by John Steinbeck
    Banned and challenged for racial slurs and racist stereotypes, and their negative effect on students
  9. “The Bluest Eye,” by Toni Morrison
    Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicts child sexual abuse
  10. “The Hate U Give,” by Angie Thomas
    Challenged for profanity, and it was thought to promote an anti-police message

Other library trends are available in the full text of the State of America’s Libraries Special Report: COVID-19, available at

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