The Wash
Picture of Books
Books at the South East Library(Nicholas Fogleman/The Wash)

DC Public Library’s fight against banned books

Capitol Hill businesses participated in Banned Book Week through events held by DC Public Library (DCPL).

In the heart of Capitol Hill, nestled in the many shops of the Barracks Row corridor, is Little District Books. The queer-owned bookstore champions the freedom to read and proudly showcases a diverse collection of LGBTQ+ literature.

Little District Books store front
Little District Books store front (Nicholas Fogleman/The Wash)

 DCPL and Little District Books took part in Banned Books Week, an annual event that seeks to bring awareness to movements that limit literature access and celebrate the freedom to read.

Amir Younes, a Little District Books employee, emphasized the importance of these events to bring awareness to the growing trend of censorship in public libraries nationwide.

“I think it’s very important to have the freedom and support the freedom to read,” Younes said.

 Little District Books and other Capitol Hill businesses participated in a DCPL scavenger hunt where challenged books were hidden for customers to find. 

“So, we have a couple of banned books hidden in the store that they can take to encourage reading those stories,” Younes said.

 Book bans by the numbers

 In D.C. the challenges libraries face reflect a broader national trend.

The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) recorded 1,269 attempts to censor library books and resources in 2022. This was the highest number of book ban attempts in over two decades, according to a report. This number nearly doubled the 729 challenges reported in 2021.

 In 2023, the OIF recorded 1,915 unique titles that were challenged, a 20% increase from the same period in 2022, according to a report. These challenges predominantly targeted books written by or about people of color or members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Heat map of US of book challenges
Map of US showing 2023d book challenges (Courtesy of American Library Association)

In recent years, banning LGBTQ+ literature has been a concerning issue for advocates.

“I think in a broader sense too, the correlation between, or just the fact that so many of the books that are either have been banned or are under review feature stories about queer folks,” Andrew Tisell, a Little District Books employee, said. “It’s about upholding the status quo, upholding heteronormativity and homophobia,” Tisell continued.

 Libraries as advocates

 DCPL has played a crucial role in supporting the freedom to read.

“Libraries play such an important part in our communities, so to use their spaces and platform to advocate against book bans is a really good thing,” Tisell said.

South East library Branch of D.C. public Liibrary
The South East branch of DCPL (Nicholas Fogleman/The Wash)

DCPL has checked out the top 13 most challenged books over 3000 times, according to DCPL data. George Williams, a Media Relations Manager for DCPL, stated in an email, that DCPL has yet to receive challenges to items in its collection.

 DC Public Library collection development guidelines support the American Libraries’ Bill of Rights and the principles of intellectual freedom,” Williams wrote in an email to the Wash.

 Younce said that DCPL’s support helps bring awareness to movements to ban books and supports efforts to increase access to marginalized voices.

“I think it’s amazing., I think that they know what they stand for, and I support it. I love DCPL, I love all the events that they do,” Younes continued.

 A unique haven for the LGBTQ+ community

 “All of the books here are written by queer people or have representation,” Younes said.

 Little District Books is unique because its entire selection is dedicated to historically marginalized voices and promotes the Capitol Hill neighborhood’s ability to engage with them. 

“I think our store plays a really important role for the queer community at large in DC. While other stores in town do have LGBTQ+ sections, having an entire store dedicated to our voices and stories is unique,” Tisell said. “We fill a really important role in that there is a need,” Tisell continued.



Nicholas Fogleman

Nick Fogleman is a journalist covering the Capitol Hill neighborhood for the Wash. He is currently pursuing a master's in Journalism and Public Affairs at American University.

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