America’s Top Librarian on the Rise of Book Bans
Play • 47 min

Public libraries around the country have become major battlegrounds for today’s culture wars. In 2022, the American Library Association noted a record 1,269 attempts at censorship — almost double the number recorded in 2021. Library events like drag story times and other children’s programming have also attracted protest. How should we understand these efforts to control what stories children can freely access?

Emily Drabinski is the president of the American Library Association and an associate professor at the Queens College Graduate School of Library and Information Studies. She is steering an embattled organization at a moment when libraries — and librarians themselves — are increasingly under fire.

This conversation unpacks the political and cultural anxieties fueling the attacks on libraries. The guest host Tressie McMillan Cottom discusses with Drabinski how libraries are a bulwark against the increasing class divides of American life, how the “small infrastructure” of the public library differs from big infrastructure like highways and bridges, how library classification systems can entrench the status quo, the parallels between political attacks on the library and the U.S. Postal Service, how censorship attempts fit in the broader landscape of anti-queer and anti-trans legislation and much more.

This episode was hosted by Tressie McMillan Cottom, a columnist for Times Opinion, a professor at U.N.C. Chapel Hill and the author of “Thick: And Other Essays.” Cottom also writes a newsletter for Times Opinion that offers a sociologist’s perspective on culture, politics and the economics of our everyday lives.


More information about Ezra’s lecture at UC Berkeley

Book Recommendations:

The Promise of Access by Daniel Greene

Flamer by Mike Curato

How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of “The Ezra Klein Show” at, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from all our guests are listed at

This episode of “The Ezra Klein Show” was produced by Emefa Agawu. Fact-checking by Michelle Harris. Our senior engineer is Jeff Geld. Our senior editor is Annie-Rose Strasser. The show’s production team also includes Rollin Hu and Kristin Lin. Original music by Isaac Jones. Audience strategy by Kristina Samulewski and Shannon Busta. The executive producer of New York Times Opinion Audio is Annie-Rose Strasser. Special thanks to Sonia Herrero.

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