The Brooklyn Public Library Continues To Give Any Teen in America a Free eCard as Part of Their Books Unbanned Program

Librarians are working harder than ever to protect a kid's right to read. Since the beginning of its launch, the Brooklyn Public Library has issued over 5,100 free electronic library cards.

Electronic book picked from a library shelf. The electronic book on a bookshelf among the many books in the library. Books and library concept
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Librarians, guardians of the people's freedom to read, often come to the rescue in response to the rise of censorship via book challenges across the country. When the Brooklyn Public Library announced Books Unbanned, their program focusing on combating censorship and suppression, the goal was to provide access to books otherwise removed from school and public libraries. Through Books Unbanned, anyone in the United States between the ages of 13 and 21 can apply for a free Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) eCard. The BPL database will give teens access to 350,000 ebooks and 200,000 audiobooks, along with numerous online databases. So far the library has issued over 5,100 electronic library cards nationwide.

Additionally, NYC teens can join BPL's Intellectual Freedom Teen Council, where together they will discuss book challenges and their favorite banned books, as they also learn how to help other teens across the country protect their right to read.

People took to Twitter to support Brooklyn Public Library and to point out why librarians are amazing.

"I worked 30+ years at Public & Academic Libraries. I'm so proud of @BKLYNlibrary for this incredible plan & I just happily made a donation. I hope some of you will donate too. Even if you can only give a few bucks, together we will all make a difference! #BooksUnbanned," @CaitORyanFans tweeted.

"Libraries are THE best places on Earth and #librarians are Earth Angels in disguise. #LGBTQIA #SayGay #DeSantis," tweeted @LupieLady08.

Inspired by the American Library Association's Freedom to Read Statement, this program is invested in "fighting for the rights of teens nationwide to read what they like, discover themselves, and form their own opinions," said Brooklyn Public Library. According to the ALA, book challenges cover a range of actions from removal or limit of access to reading materials, censorship of content in schools, the labeling of "controversial" views, distributing lists of "objectionable" books or authors, all the way to the purging of libraries.

"Last year US school districts banned 1000+ books, mostly by and about people of colour, with content, and/or for social justice. So @BKLYNlibrary started #BooksUnbanned, giving 13–21 year olds across the US access to ebooks, audiobooks and more #WorldBookDay2022 #librarians," tweeted @CynthiaDNelson.

Over 1500 books were targeted by private groups and public authorities in 2021 alone, according to the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom. Of the top 10 most challenged books of 2021, half were challenged primarily due to ​​LGBTQIA+ content.

Recently contested books making headlines across states and counties will be marked as "always available" at BPL, in e-reader and audiobook formats. These include incredible works of art, literature and research ranging from Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye, Nikole Hannah-Jones' The 1619 Project, and Ocean Vuong's On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous.

Nick Higgins, chief librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library, told CNN, "On one side, it's great that we were able to step in and support people in their time of need with access to robust library collections, but it's also really telling that there are significant censorship efforts going on across the country that a lot of us need to band together to push back on."

As librarians step up to counter the impact of censorship, largely of BIPOC and ​LGBTQIA+ authors, a socio-economic access gap remains for teens, determining who does and who does not have regular online access. As the fight against oppression and censorship continues, we can all work towards bridging disparities, so that every teen has free, accessible access to online databases and resources, and the tech equipment required to do so.

"Brilliant Brooklyn Library @BKLYNlibrary #BooksUnbanned My kind of library sanctuary & now #virtual. Sadly socio-economic disparities will mean ebooks & other e-resources may still not be available to all. So better still if no #bans #censorship #DigitalDivide," tweeted @cefy.

Schools and libraries across the country are facing an increasingly coordinated effort to remove books from shelves. With #BooksUnbanned, BPL seeks to combat the negative impact of censorship. Teens can apply for their free eCard by emailing or messaging @bklynfuture on Instagram.

Because of the ongoing success of the program, Books Unbanned will be offered indefinitely.

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  1. Banned Books Week Proclamation. Banned and Challenged Books, ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom.

  2. Number of books at home as an indicator of socioeconomic status: Examining its extensions and their incremental validity for academic achievementSocial Psychology of Education: An International Journal. 2022.

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