BPL’s Viral Books Unbanned Initiative Celebrates New Milestone during National Library Week; Teens In All 50 States Checked Out 100,000 Books from Brooklyn Public Library’s Digital Collection Over Last Year

See images here. (Photo credit: Gregg Richards.)

Brooklyn, NY- Celebrating National Library Week, Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) announced a new milestone today in the fight against censorship and book banning: more than 6000 young people, ages 13 to 21, have applied for a free BPL library card over the last year, providing them access to the Library’s entire digital collection of half a million items. In total, they have checked out 100,000 books via BPL’s Books Unbanned initiative.

“As we mark National Library Week, Brooklyn Public Library is proud to provide thousands of young people across Brooklyn and across the country access to books and information from all points of view. Great books help individuals of all ages, and especially teens, discover new voices within their communities and discern new sides of themselves. As bans reach record numbers again this year, we will continue to fight for the books we agree with and those we don’t—with equal fervor—for that is what democracy demands,” said Linda E Johnson, President and CEO, Brooklyn Public Library.

The Books Unbanned digital library card was launched in April 2022 to combat an alarming rise in book bans, driven by organized political groups across the country. Over the last year, book challenges, which primarily target YA titles (books for teens), have continued to rise with the American Library Association reporting the highest number since they began compiling data two decades ago and nearly double the year before. 

Moreover, the ALA reports the majority of challenged titles were by or about people of color or members of the LGBQTIA+ community. 

“What message do we send to young people who are just discovering the world around them and their own identities, when we remove all the books about people like them? We must continue to fight for the right to access information from all perspectives guaranteed by the First Amendment,” said Chief Librarian Nick Higgins.

Yet across the country a dangerous trend is emerging. In Llano Texas—where a librarian was fired for refusing to hide a book about critical race theory—the Library systems narrowly missed being closed permanently after a judge ruled they must remain open. Lawmakers had threatened to close branches rather than return books they had banned to the shelves. A similar situation played out in Missouri. Libraries remain open but strict rules remain in place. Books with images deemed sexually explicit are outlawed and librarians and school officials face fines—and jail time—if they violate the policy. Sadly, teens are often caught in the middle.

“I tried to find a book called The Hate You Give and I can’t find it anywhere. The last time I went to the local library to look at books about LGBTQ+ I was told that I didn’t need to get those kinds of ideas in my head,” one teen wrote in applying for a library card. “A librarian helped me find All American Boys but then told me in a quiet voice not to tell anyone I’d been helped and to say I’d found it on my own,” said another.

Brooklyn Public Library supports the right of parents and guardians to choose the books for their children to read. However, no group or individual can determine what is right for every family. Limiting access or providing one-sided information is a threat to democracy itself. 

Teens across the country can apply for the Books Unbanned digital library card from the BPL website or DM the Library’s teen Instagram account, @bklynfuture. Young people can also join the Library’s Intellectual Teen Freedom Council to learn more about to how advocate for the freedom to read.

About Brooklyn Public Library
Brooklyn Public Library is one of the nation’s largest library systems and among New York City’s most democratic institutions. As a leader in developing modern 21st-century libraries, we provide resources to support personal advancement, foster civic literacy, and strengthen the fabric of community among the more than 2.7 million individuals who call Brooklyn home. We provide nearly 60,000 free programs a year with writers, thinkers, artists, and educators—from around the corner and around the world. We give patrons millions of opportunities to enjoy one of life’s greatest satisfactions: the joy of a good book.