Peer Reviewed Article

The Urge to Censor: Raw Power, Social Control, and the Criminalization of Librarianship

  • Paul T. Jaeger (University of Maryland)
  • Allison Jennings-Roche orcid logo (Towson University)
  • Natalie Greene Taylor (University of South Florida)
  • Ursula Gorham (University of Maryland)
  • Olivia Hodge (University of Maryland)
  • Karen Kettnich (Clemson University)


Censorshipis an act of control, driven by a combustible mix of power, privilege, and fear.Large pro-censorship movements historically occur in response to social changesthat alarms a privileged population, with the goal dictating access toinformation for the entire community that is in accord with the personalbeliefs of the privileged group. The urge to censor is rooted in the use of rawpower to preserve the currently privileged, and censorship will be a threat tolibraries as long as privilege seeks to perpetuate itself. With the currentcensorship movement against many marginalized groups, the intent in banningaccess to materials representing the voices and experiences of thosepopulations is to keep them marginalized. The current censorship wave representsnot only a threat to intellectual freedom, but to civil rights and humanrights. This paper attempts to help give perspective to the current censorshipmovement and the ways in which libraries can respond by placing it within thelarger historical trends of censorship. While this new movement has addedseemingly unthinkable dimensions, like laws that threaten to imprison librariesfor simply doing their jobs, much of what is occurring now is also deeplyrooted in past attempts to thwart social change. 

Keywords: censorship, criminalization, democracy, human rights, civil rights, intellectual freedom

How to Cite:

Jaeger, P. T. & Jennings-Roche, A. & Taylor, N. G. & Gorham, U. & Hodge, O. & Kettnich, K., (2023) “The Urge to Censor: Raw Power, Social Control, and the Criminalization of Librarianship”, The Political Librarian 6(1), 1 - 20. doi:



Published on
30 May 2023
Peer Reviewed