The move is intended to counteract a growing book censorship movement
The Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) is counteracting a ban on certain books by letting anyone in the US aged 13 to 21 apply for a digital library card. This gives teens and young adults, regardless of their location in the United States, access to the library’s entire ebook collection.
The initiative, called Books Unbanned, is fighting what the BPL describes as an “increasingly coordinated and effective effort to remove books tackling a wide range of topics from library shelves.” According to the American Library Association (ALA), a total of 729 books were challenged in 2021, meaning a person or group attempted to ban these titles from public libraries.
This led to 1,597 challenges or removals of individual books, most of which were written by or about Black or LGBTQIA+ people and targeted a teenage audience. In Llano, Texas, books including Maurice Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen were removed from shelves, and the head of the town’s governing body, Ron Cunningham, questioned whether the town should even have libraries, according to emails obtained through public record requests by The Washington Post. Further north in Granbury, Texas, the Granbury Independent School District pulled over 100 books, only to then return them to the library system after criticism from students and the ACLU.
In addition to the library cards offered to any people in the US between the ages of 13 and 21, the Brooklyn Public Library has also made a selection of ebooks and audiobooks that are frequently banned or challenged at other locations “always available” to library cardholders. You can see a full list of frequently challenged books (and why they were challenged) on the ALA’s website.
If you’re interested in getting a BPL digital library card, you can apply by emailing BooksUnbanned@bklynlibrary.org. You can also find more information about banned books on BPL’s website.