December 8, 2023

We’ve covered this before: school districts across the United States are increasingly censoring books that don’t align with conservative, white-washed visions of the world. Art Spiegelman’s Maus, The Illustrated Diary of Anne FrankAlice Walker Violet, Toni Morrison bluest eye and Harper Lee’s To kill a thrush– these are some of the many books being pulled from the shelves of American school libraries. In response to this trend, the Brooklyn Public Library has taken a bold step: For a limited time, the library will offer a free e-card to anyone between the ages of 13 and 21 across the United States, giving them free access to 500,000 digital books, including many censored books. Brooklyn Public Library Chief Librarian Nick Higgins said:

A public library represents all of us in a pluralistic society where we exist with other people, with other ideas, other opinions and perspectives, and that’s what makes a healthy democracy—not closing access to those viewpoints or silencing the voices we don’t have. I agree, but we’re expanding access to those voices and having conversations and ideas we agree with and ideas we disagree with.

And he added:

This is the Brooklyn Public Library’s intellectual freedom to read initiative. You see, we’ve been paying attention to a lot of book challenges and bans that have happened, especially in the last year, in many places around the country. We don’t necessarily experience a lot of it here in Brooklyn, but we know that there are library patrons and library staff who struggle with that, and we wanted to figure out a way to reach out and help, especially young people who are seen, some of the books in their library collections that may represent them, but are pulled from the shelves.

As for how to get a free Brooklyn Public Library e-Card, its Books Unbanned website offers the following instructions: “Individuals ages 13-21 can apply for a free BPL e-Card, which provides access to our full collection of e-books as well as to our learning databases. To sign up, email bo********@bk************.org.” In short, send them an email.

A list of the most frequently banned books in America can be found on the website of the American Library Association.

Note: We first wrote about this initiative during the dog days of last August. But it seemed worth mentioning this program now that school is in full swing. This is why we are rebranding the books as Unbanned.

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