Library books and librarians are the targets of unprecedented attacks.

Almost 400 book titles have been challenged this year in Virginia, according to the American Library Association. Deborah Caldwell-Stone at the association says that's a huge increase from an earlier era when it was more of a one-to-one ratio; one person would challenge one book.

"What we are seeing now is an individual or a group coming to a library and saying, ‘We have this list of 100 books that are LGTBQIA themed. Or, they are about the lives and experiences of Black people and describe our history of racism in a way that we don't agree with, and we want them removed,’" Caldwell-Stone says.

This story was reported and written by WVTF

Advocates for free expression in literature say the recent trend of people challenging a list of books they got off the internet poses a real threat.

"When we are talking about book bans, we’re talking about a practice that we associate with authoritarianism," says Jonathan Friedman at PEN America. "Something that we associate with efforts to control and constrain and engage in, for lack of a better term, forms of mind control."

Ironically, he says, many of the books targeted for bans are dystopian novels about societies in which people can't think for themselves.