A bundle of banned books that were removed from Spotsylvania County Public Schools this spring.
Julia Nikhinson/For The Washington Post via Getty Images
Over half of all book challenges made in the 2021-2022 school year came from just 11 adults.
One woman said she read 73 books, scanning for sexually explicit content, and challenged 71 of them.
Book challenges, once a school library issue, are becoming a community-wide library issue.
A Virginia woman dedicated herself to challenging at least one book per week — an effort that has caused a schism in her community as well as hours of unpaid labor for school librarians.
Jennifer Petersen, 48, spends hours scanning books for content she finds sexually explicit and filing challenges with Spotsylvania County Public Schools, where one of her children is enrolled and another is a recent graduate, The Washington Post reported.
Out of 73 books she read in one year, she challenged 71 of them, the Post reported. The remaining two were removed before she had the chance to get to them.
In her complaints, seen by the Post, she wrote that one book “reads like a how-to guide for raping teens.” Another “normalizes teen sex and … glorifies and incites teens to have sex,” she wrote.
According to an analysis by the Post, 60% of book challenges made in the 2021-2022 school year came from the same 11 adults. Petersen was one of them. The majority of objections were on books authored by or about LGBTQ+ people or people of color.
While some members of the community have praised Petersen, others have called the effort a waste of time and money. A library staffer told the Post that nearly a dozen people spent 40 hours per week just on Petersen’s book challenges.
Peterson’s ongoing effort comes at a time when book-banning efforts are going national. While most challenges and bans focused on school libraries under the guise of protecting unknowing children, an increasing number of challenges are targeting public libraries that are accessible to entire communities, The New York Times reported.