YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Ten days ago at the start of National Library Week, the American Library Association announced that last year “every state faced an unprecedented number of attempts to ban books.”

Two women who run libraries locally say that was not the case in the Valley.

Aimee Fifarek, executive director of The Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County, and Kathy Bennett, director of the Columbiana Public Library, have not had anyone ask them to remove a book.

“Not since I have been here,” Bennett said. “I asked around to some of the different employees that have been here for a while and we have not.”

Fifarek said they haven’t seen an uptick but says people have questioned some materials. When they do, there is a form to fill out and a librarian may call and ask if they’ve fully read the material.

“Many times when she has that conversation, people will have challenged materials that they haven’t even looked at it,” Fifarek said.

There are bylaws in the Columbiana County system that outlines the process for disputing books. Like Mahoning County, the process begins with a form.

“That comes to me and I will look at it and take into consideration what they have written and then I take it to the board,” Bennett said. “The board is ultimately the one that determines whether that book stays or goes.”

In Mahoning County, Fifarek makes the decision. In her four years running the library, she’s never removed any material from the collection. In fact, in all her 25 years of working in libraries, only one piece has ever been removed and it was an obscure movie from the 60s.

“It was as if the director and creator were doing their best to offend every single person on the face of the earth,” Fifarek said.

What would it take to remove material for a shelf? Each librarian said they’d have to see it first.

“Intellectual freedom is important to our community, and we try to get all points of view,” Bennett said.

“Everyone has their own personal standards,” Fifarek said.

The American Library Association also released the top 10 most challenged books last year, half of which dealt with gay or transgender material:

  1. Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe
    Reasons: Banned, challenged, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, and because it was considered to have sexually explicit images
  2. Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and because it was considered to be sexually explicit
  3. All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content, profanity, and because it was considered to be sexually explicit
  4. Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez
    Reasons: Banned, challenged, and restricted for depictions of abuse and because it was considered to be sexually explicit
  5. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, violence, and because it was thought to promote an anti-police message and indoctrination of a social agenda
  6. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references and use of a derogatory term
  7. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
    Reasons: Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and degrading to women
  8. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
    Reasons: Banned and challenged because it depicts child sexual abuse and was considered sexually explicit
  9. This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson
    Reasons: Banned, challenged, relocated, and restricted for providing sexual education and LGBTQIA+ content.
  10. Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and because it was considered to be sexually explicit.