Brooklyn Public Library’s “Books Unbanned” program aims to provide young people with access to censored literature
NEW YORK – The Brooklyn Public Library’s “Books Unbanned” program was created in response to efforts to remove controversial titles from library shelves.
“Most of the challenged books deal largely with LGBTQ issues or were written by people of color,” says Nick Higgins, BPL’s chief librarian.
According to Higgins, the library system wanted to support those who fight for their rights to read what interests them.
“It’s kind of like walking into a library, a space that should be a sanctuary for everyone in the community and being able to find yourself, your friends, your interests reflected on the shelves of those spaces,” says he at CBS2. Hannah Kliger.
While the library’s digital collection, which includes these banned books, has always been accessible to teenagers in New York State, people between the ages of 13 and 21 can now email the library for a electronic card, which gives them access to half a million e-books and audiobooks for free.
The Brooklyn Public Library says so far it has granted such access to about 5,000 young people in all 50 states.
According to the American Library Association, there were 729 challenges to documents from libraries, schools and universities last year, resulting in more than 1,500 individual attempts to remove books. This is the highest number in at least 20 years, when the ALA began compiling this information. And most of those books were about literature for teenagers.
“We can’t change the fact that this is happening, but we can do our best to limit its effects,” says Sofia Fernandez Germani, 15, a member of the library’s Teen Intellectual Freedom Council, which was set up in response to this problem.
“Since forbidden books often talk about difficult issues that may not even be covered in class, it’s important to have a way to find information about them,” she explains.
Librarians and teens in this program say censorship of authors with diverse perspectives shouldn’t happen in a pluralistic society.
“Salman Rushdie was brutally attacked here in upstate New York for writing a book over 30 years ago, we have teachers who are suspended, librarians who are criminalized simply for doing their jobs, we have elected officials talking about burning books in the state. It’s 202, so I can’t believe we’re having this conversation right now,” Higgins says.
It comes as an Oklahoma teacher says she was furloughed in August for promoting this Brooklyn program to her students.
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