Young adults around the U.S. facing book bans in their local communities will have access to more than a half million e-books and audiobooks through an initiative launched by the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL).
The year-long Books UnBanned program was launched on April 13, 2022, and offers those aged between 13 and 21 access to over 100 databases and a combined 550,000 e-books and audiobooks through a digital library card.
“Access to information is the great promise upon which public libraries were founded,” said Linda Johnson, BPL president and CEO, in a news release.
“We cannot sit idly by while books rejected by a few are removed from the library shelves for all. Books UnBanned will act as an antidote to censorship, offering teens and young adults across the country unlimited access to our extensive collection of ebooks and audiobooks, including those which may be banned in their home libraries.”
The move comes as a new wave of proposed book bans has spread across some states, including Florida, Mississippi, and Texas. Proponents have argued that some books currently allowed in school districts contain “sexually explicit or “homosexual” material while opponents fear that limiting access to literature could have lasting effects on free speech. In 2022, the American Library Association (ALA) tracked more than 700 challenges to public and school libraries and compiled a top 10 list of the nearly 1,600 books targeted. Among those titles included three that were challenged for LGBTQIA+ content: “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe, “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison, and “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson.
BPL announced that it will also make a list of frequently challenged books available with no holds or wait times for all cardholders. This will be available through the library’s online catalog or the free Libby app. Such titles include “Black Flamingo” by Dean Atta, “Tomboy” by Liz Prince, “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, and “The 1619 Project” by Nikole Hannah-Jones.
Typically, an out-of-state BPL e-card would cost an applicant $50. However, that fee will be waived for one year to allow teens access to books that may not be available in their communities. To apply for the card, a note can be sent to BooksUnbanned@bklynlibrary.org, or via the library’s teen-run Instagram account, @bklynfuture. Complaints of censorship in libraries can be submitted to the ALA here and can also be shared online at the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom.