Efforts by school boards and county and state governments to ban books have taken on historic proportions in recent years. The American Library Association reported a record-setting number of book challenges in 2021 — a record that probably was broken in 2022 — and some challengers went so far as to call for the librarians who maintained these books to be arrested.
But even if government censorship of libraries is unprecedented in scope, it’s not new. Fifty years ago, there was another campaign to monitor people’s access to books. It was overseen not by local governments but by the FBI.
And it was not concerned about kids getting a peek at Captain Underpants (among the most-challenged books of the past decade) — it was looking for Soviet spies.