Brooklyn Public Library combats book bans with free Library Cards

Jahlil Rush, Production Assistant

To combat what can be interpreted as growing literary censorship across the United States, the Brooklyn Public Library has launched a campaign called “Books UnBanned,” allowing children between the ages of 13 to 21 to apply for a digital library card.

The campaign’s mission is to aid teens who have been negatively affected by the alarming trend of increased censorship and book banning happening across the nation.

According to a press release provided by the Brooklyn Public Library, the digital library cards will be good for approximately one year. The eCards will supply teens with access to 350,000 eBooks, 200,000 audiobooks and over 100 databases.

“Access to information is the great promise upon which public libraries were founded,” Linda E. Johnson, president and CEO of BPL said in the press 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.”

Supporters for “Books UnBanned” include Nikole Hannah-Jones, creator of the 1619 project and a current Brooklyn Public Library board member.

“This is such a fantastic move and a template for how other institutions in states that AREN’T banning books can help those who live in states that are,” Hannah-Jones tweeted. “Healthy societies do not ban books.”

In addition to the public library’s new digital campaign, it has also invited teenagers to share videos, essays and stories on why intellectual freedom is important and how book banning can have a significant impact on their lives.

In 2021, there were over 1500 books banned in the country, BookRiot reports.

It should be noted that most modern-day attempts at literary censorship involved books that were written by or centered on the Black community or from the LGBTQIA+ community.

The American Library Association released a report saying that 729 books faced challenges in 2021, meaning that activist groups or a single individual have tried to ban certain reading materials from libraries. It is the highest number of banning attempts since the organization began tracking them in 2000.

Among the list of books that were challenged included “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe, a book that centered on LGBTQIA+ content. Some people found Kobabe’s book to have sexually explicit images. Other books included, “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas, a book that was challenged due to some believing that the book promoted anti-police messages.

A PEN America analysis concluded that more than 1000 books have been banned spanning across 86 different school districts in 26 states in the United States. The analysis detailed that there have been 184 bans on 143 “unique” books in both libraries and classrooms.

The nonprofit credited politicians and school board members for having big roles in book banning. 41% of book bans were connected to motives pushed by state officials or elected lawmakers.

Texas, with 713 bans, led the nation with the most book bans followed by Pennsylvania, with 456 bans and Florida with 204 bans, CNN reported. Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott reportedly pressured Texas school boards to remove certain books that he considered “pornographic.”

Texas Rep. Matt Krause, chairman of the Texas House of Representatives General

Investigating Committee, called for libraries in public school settings to “account” for 850 books that he suspects contains sexually explicit or racially motivated topics, noted in the BPL’s press release.

Suzanne Nossel, CEO of Pen America, spoke out on the literary censorship calling the nation’s book banning epidemic concerning.

“By short-circuiting rights-protective review processes, these bans raise serious concerns in terms of constitutionality and represent an affront to the role of our public schools as vital training grounds for democratic citizenship that instill a commitment to freedom of speech and thought,” Nossel said.

News of the Brooklyn Public Library’s “Books UnBanned” initiative arrived around the same time that The New York Public Library announced a similar program dubbed “Books for All”will be available soon to the public.