Last month, The Huffington Post covered the anti-Muslim vandalism found in copies of the Quran leant out by the Evanston library in Illinois.
The act wasn’t an isolated incident. According to the American Library Association, there’s been an uptick in hate crimes committed at libraries. In fact, The New York Times has reported multiple incidents of anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic graffiti.
The acts of vandalism ― and in one case, the attempted removal of a library-goer’s hijab ― have spiked to the point that the ALA decided to formally begin tracking them. On Facebook, the organization wrote:
Is the recent spate of hate crimes in libraries a blip or a trend? It’s difficult to know at this point, but the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom is now formally tracking them.
Hate crimes are notoriously difficult to track. The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that only one-third are reported, so a complete picture is difficult to capture. The ALA’s contribution to gathering information can only further elucidate the problem.
The ALA also formally tracks attempts to ban or challenge books, as reported state by state. The reasons for challenging a title’s place on a curriculum or in a public library include “sexually explicit,” “political viewpoint,” and “religious viewpoint.”
The ALA compiles this information “to raise awareness of censorship and promote the freedom to read.” Now, its formal tracking of hate crimes will hopefully preserve libraries as safe spaces to learn.