Introducing: Borrowed and Banned

Season 7, Trailer

On Borrowed and Banned, we tell the story of America’s ideological war with its bookshelves by talking with the people most impacted: the students on the frontlines, the librarians and teachers whose livelihoods are endangered when they speak up, and the writers whose books have become political battleground. 


Take our Banned Books Challenge and read these books.

Episode Transcript

Virginia Marshall Over the past few years, there’s been a noticeable shift in America. People are angry, fed-up … some are saying we’re in the middle of a culture war. 

Newscaster A Texas lawmaker has launched an investigation into the books that books that public school districts have on their shelves. 

Ron DeSantis We fight the woke in the legislature, we fight the woke in our schools! 

Newscaster You may have read about the growing list of books banned in our nation's classrooms and libraries.

Adwoa Adusei At Brooklyn Public Library, we’ve been watching the news, too. We've watched as books and libraries have become the target of so much of that anger. 

Virginia Marshall So, last year, we did what libraries do best. We gave people free access to books. We opened the doors of our digital collection to teens across the country. All they had to do was write to us – and they could read any book they wanted. But we weren’t prepared for the response. 

Newscaster Brooklyn Public Library is giving teen readers a different weapon against censorship

Newscaster Helping people get access to books that may be prohibited in certain parts of the country

Newscaster They started this new program, it's called Books Unbanned.

Adwoa Adusei Since we launched the Books Unbanned card, over 6,500 teens have contacted us, most with stories about how books were disappearing from their schools and libraries

Leigh Hurwitz We were so inundated that I think at one point there were like over 2000 unread emails in the inbox. It was bananas. It was really it was really hard to keep up. 

Adwoa Adusei Librarians responded to each and every teen and gave them access to the books they desperately wanted to read. But the bans and challenges across the country continue to rise. These days, the attacks on intellectual freedom … are overwhelming.

Virginia Marshall And then we realized something. As a public library, another thing we’re good at is sharing information, and telling stories. 

[Theme music starts] 

Virginia Marshall That’s why we’re launching a new podcast series, called Borrowed and Banned. We want to help you understand how and why books are being removed from library shelves across the country, and what you can do about it. 

Laney Hawes It's being painted as though there's one group who wants to give kids porn and another group who doesn't. But that's simply not true. 

Da'Taeveyon Daniels We're focusing on our education, but we're also out here fighting a fight that your generation was supposed to fight. 

Edha Gupta It just brought me to a rage.

Adwoa Adusei These tensions are brewing everywhere. In St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, the fight over books about gender and sexuality in the library led to arson.  

Mel Manuel It was actually a Trans teenager who made this sign that said "Ban Hate, Not Books." And they put it on their own property. It was like a billboard and it got torched, at like 2 am on their property. It feels like putting us all back in the closet, and I'm not willing to go there.

Virginia Marshall And it’s not just parents and teens who’ve been drawn into the fight. Writers, librarians, and teachers have ended up in the middle of this political storm, risking their jobs and their safety when they speak up. 

George M Johnson I'm sitting on a list with Toni Morrison. You don't ban Toni Morrison unless you are trying to prevent people from understanding a very profound truth that they need to understand. 

Adwoa Adusei Over seven episodes, we’ll bring you stories from across the country about moments when books have become a battle ground. And we’ll share steps you can take to combat censorship … no matter where you live, and no matter how old you are.

Virginia Marshall From Brooklyn Public Library, this is Borrowed and Banned. Our first episode drops on September 28 … subscribe wherever you find podcasts. 

Borrowed and Banned is a production of Brooklyn Public Library and receives support from the Metropolitan New York Library Council’s Equity in Action Grant and Goat Rodeo.