Story at a glance
- The Brooklyn Public Library kicked off a new program on Wednesday that allows 13- to 21-year-olds to apply for a free eCard or traditional library card regardless of where they live.
- Normally, a Brooklyn Public Library eCard costs $50 for non-Brooklyn residents.
- The new initiative will give young people across the country access to hundreds of thousands of e-books and audiobooks including those that have been impacted by recent book bans in some states.
The Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) is trying to fight back against a spike in censorship and book bans in the United States by making its resources available to teens and young adults across the country.
On Wednesday, the library launched a new program entitled Books UnBanned, that allows 13- to 21-year-olds to apply for a free library eCard, regardless of where they live.
The eCard is good for one year and will provide access to 350,000 e-books, 200,000 audiobooks and 100 databases, according to BPL.
Since last year, there have been 1,586 book bans or restrictions set in place in libraries across the country affecting roughly 2 million students, according to a recently released report from PEN America, a nonprofit that works to defend free speech.
Those bans target a total of 1,145 individual books by 874 authors, the report adds.
“Challenges to books and book bans are nothing new but it just seems that… the efforts have gotten a lot more coordinated, a lot more intense,” said Nick Higgins, chief librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library. “So, the pushback needs to be as coordinated and as urgent.”
Higgins hopes that the BPL program will help provide support and encouragement to smaller libraries and library systems to stand up against book challenges and bans.
“A healthy democracy requires confronting ideas that we don’t agree with and having discussions with people who have different points of view,” Higgins added.
To receive the card, teenagers need to send an email to BooksUnbanned@bklynlibrary.org or send a message to the library’s Instagram account @bklynfuture and share an essay, story or video on the importance of intellectual freedom and the impact that a book ban or challenge has had on their life.
Teens living outside of Brooklyn can also access information and resources to fight censorship in their own communities by connecting with peers in the borough on the library’s Intellectual Freedom Teen Council.
“Everybody should have an opportunity to read what they like,” said Gabas Yagoub, 16, a member of the BPL Intellectual Freedom Teen Council. “So, to think that I wouldn’t have access to the certain books that I would want to read…I feel like it’s unfair to me to not have an opportunity to read a book that I would personally like to read in my own time.”
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