How to Get Free Digital Library Cards and Access Banned Books

New York’s library systems are on a mission to let people read what they want.

In an attempt to combat the increase book banning efforts across the country– especially for texts dealing with gender identity, race, religion, and even history – the New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library systems have found solutions to resist censorship.

How can I access banned books through the New York Public Library?

In partnership with publishers Hachette Book Group, Macmillan Publishers and Scholastic, the NYPL is providing free digital access to a selection of often banned or contested books to anyone in the country.

Starting today, the book selection will be available in e-book form until the end of May, with no fines or waiting times. The initiative is part of NYPL “Book for all” project, which aims to highlight the censorship issues plaguing the country while making a statement in support of free knowledge and diverse perspectives.

“These recent cases of censorship and book bans are extremely disturbing and constitute an all-out assault on the very foundation of our democracy,” New York Public Library President Anthony W. Marx said in an official statement. . “Knowledge is power; ignorance is dangerous and breeds hatred and division. Since their inception, public libraries have worked to combat these forces simply by making all perspectives and ideas accessible to everyone, regardless of their background. or their circumstances.”

The project features books that have been added to the American Library Association’s most commonly banned books lists or that have recently been the subject of criticism and attempted bans. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Stamped: racism, anti-racism and you by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi, king and the dragonflies by Kacen Callender, and The Heart Catcher by JD Salinger are part of the project and can be read online for free. It is important to note that, per NYPL policies, readers age 12 and under can only access children’s books.

Curious minds looking to browse and read “unbanned” e-books will be able to do so via SimplyE, the free reading app created by NYPL in 2016. While thousands of books will be available primarily to New Yorkers with NYPL library cards, the Books For All collection will be open to anyone in the country, with or without a library card, and will feature a number of out-of-copyright and public domain books. Non-banned books will become part of the Books For All collection, and there will be no waiting time to read them. To download the SimplyE app, you can visit This site.

What about the Brooklyn Public Library?

Similarly, the Brooklyn Public Library announced its own version of NYPL’s “Book For All” initiative, dubbed “Books UnBanned.” BPL’s Anti-Censorship Project is suitable for teens and young adults ages 13-21 nationwide and aims to give students access to books and texts that might have been banned from their own libraries. school.

For a limited time, people in the selected age group will be able to apply for a free digital library card from BPL, giving them access to a vast collection of digital materials. For one year, BPL cardholders will have access to 350,000 e-books, 200,000 audio books and more than 100 databases.

“Access to information is the great promise upon which public libraries were founded,” Brooklyn Public Library President and CEO Linda E. Johnson said in a statement. “We cannot sit idly by while books rejected by a few are removed from library shelves for all. ‘Books UnBanned’ will act as an antidote to censorship, providing teens and young adults across the countries unlimited access to our vast collection of ebooks and audiobooks, including those that may be banned from their personal libraries.”

Among the “Books UnBanned” collection, there will be a BPL-curated selection of frequently challenged or banned books and, similar to the NYPL initiative, they will be available with no holds or wait times for all holders. BPL card via the online catalog or the Libby app. . Titles include Dean Atta’s The black flamingo and Tomboy by Liz Prince as well as The bluest eye by Toni Morrison and The 1619 Project by Nikole Hannah-Jones.

To foster communication and knowledge sharing, teens will also be able to connect with their peers in Brooklyn (including members of BPL’s Teen Intellectual Freedom Council) to recommend books and share resources to fight bullying. censorship. To request the card, you can send a note to [email protected] or via BPL’s teen-only instagram account @bklynfuture. The $50 fee normally charged for out-of-state library card requests will be waived.

Why is it important to have access to these books?

According to the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, more than 729 complaints were filed last year in a bid to remove 1,597 “uncomfortable” books from library shelves across the country, making it the highest number of complaints since the association began trace it more than 20 years ago. Compared to 2019, the number of complaints filed in 2021 more than doubled.

While decisions about which titles are worthy of being on the shelves tend to vary by state, there has been a universal tendency to try and ban the same categories regardless of their geographic location. Books featuring LGBTQ characters, sexual identity, and racial issues (even historical ones, like the rise of the KKK) all come under heavy criticism from some parties and organizations.

Matt Karause, Chairman of the Texas House of Representatives General Investigation Committee, told state schools to ‘account for’ 850 pounds deemed sexually explicit or racially preferential. The list includes titles such as National Book Award winner How to be anti-racist by Ibrahim Kendi. A librarian in Llano County, Texas was fired after opposing an order to remove books from library shelves. One of the titles the librarian was instructed to remove was about a teenager who identified as transgender.

“Moms For Libraries”, a new initiative born within the conservative group Moms for Liberty (which has more than 70,000 members across the country), is on a mission to remove all books dealing with and exploring gender identity and racial polarization from local libraries.

The McMinn County School Board in Tennessee has decided to vote against the reading of Maus, an eighth-grade curriculum Holocaust graphic novel. Indiana lawmakers went even further and considered a bill that would legally allow librarians to be arrested and jailed for presenting what is considered inappropriate content.

There is even censorship in our own backyard. the The New York State Department of Education deleted a tweet from the New York State Librarian where she recommends reading Gender Queer: A Memoir because, according to the NYSED, it contained graphical content of which the department was unaware.

Why is the library management promoting this initiative?

Both the NYPL and the BPL are committed to providing free access to knowledge and culture without borders, and are ready to fight censorship with their new initiatives.

“The role of the Library is to ensure that no perspective, no idea, no identity is erased,” Marx said. “That has always been our role: to connect people with reliable information. The teenager who has questions and wants to find answers in private. For the adult who is curious about subjects for which he has no personal experience. For those who want to make informed decisions based on facts.Since the founding of our great nation, libraries have been beacons of this kind of curiosity and independent learning, and it is unacceptable for them to be censored in any way whether it be.

PBL Chief Librarian Nick Higgins added, “The Brooklyn Public Library strongly opposes censorship and the principles of intellectual freedom – the right of every individual to seek and receive information from all unrestricted view. Limiting access or providing one-sided information is a threat to democracy itself.”

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