Analyzing Challenges to Library Materials: An Incomplete Picture

Shannon M. Oltmann, Chris Peterson, Emily J.M. Knox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


This research project used Freedom of Information requests to obtain public records from Alabama institutions about challenges to materials in public schools and public libraries. Challenges occur when a patron objects to certain content. In this analysis, we examine the records of challenges. The research questions were as follows: How many challenges occur in public schools and libraries? What is the nature of these challenges? Are there institutional or demographic factors that are correlated to the occurrence of challenges? In this exploratory study, the number of reported challenges was surprisingly low. We investigated whether reported challenges were related to certain institutional or demographic factors, but did not find any discernible relationships. The data suggest that most challenged material is retained, but that librarians may be self-censoring to reduce controversy in their collections.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)274-292
Number of pages19
JournalPublic Library Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
©, Published with license by Taylor & Francis. © Shannon M. Oltmann, Chris Peterson, and Emily J. M. Knox.


  • Censorship
  • FOIA
  • Freedom of Information Act
  • challenge
  • public libraries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Library and Information Sciences


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