The Brooklyn Public Library defies book censorship by allowing teens and young adults across the United States to access its extensive digital collection.
The library, the sixth-largest in the country, first announced the Books UnBanned campaign in a press release on April 13, in response to a spate of book bans in public schools and libraries, mostly targeting LGBTQ+ titles and books by authors of color have affected . While people across the country have always been able to apply for access to BPL’s digital resources, the organization now waives the $50 annual fee normally associated with out-of-state cards.
Young people aged 13-21 can message [email protected] or the library’s “teen-run” Instagram to receive their free eCard. According to BPL, the cards will give people access to 350,000 e-books, 200,000 audio books and over 100 databases.
“Access to information is the great promise on which public libraries were founded,” said Linda E. Johnson, President and CEO of BPL. “We cannot stand by and watch as books rejected by a few are removed from library shelves for everyone.
Books UnBanned, Johnson continued, “will act as an antidote to censorship” and provide unlimited access to works that many youngsters may no longer have access to in their home libraries.
In addition to expanding access for people across the country, BPL is making unlimited copies of certain books available to all cardholders. The list includes LGBTQ+ books like The black flamingo by Dean Atta, tomboy by Liz Prince, On Earth, we are momentarily beautiful by Ocean Vuong and lawnboy by Jonathan Evison. The press release cites the “increasingly coordinated and effective effort to remove books on a wide range of subjects from library shelves” as the inspiration for this initiative.
This coordinated censorship effort includes more than 700 complaints to public libraries in 2021 — the most complaints in a single year since records began, according to the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom.
The BPL press release also cites an initiative called “Moms for Libraries” led by the right-wing group Moms for Liberty; the goal of the group, per media affairs, is to remove books with “inappropriate” content from public schools and replace them with books like the anti-trans children’s book Elephants are not birds.
Myriad other attacks on free speech, and particularly LGBTQ+ and anti-racist content books, are also spreading through state legislatures. BPL’s offering will likely prove invaluable to young people in states that might not allow school libraries to carry such books — or states that would allow parents to monitor what their children are checking out in the library.
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