Brooklyn Public Library’s “Books Unbanned” combats book bans through free digital library cards

Book banning and censorship are still prevalent issues in the US nowadays, and to counteract the ever-growing movements, Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) started offering digital library cards. The application is for all individuals in the US aged 13 to 21 and will give them access to BPL’s entire ebook collection. The public library system of the New York City borough of Brooklyn calls the movement “Books Unbanned,” as inspired by American Library Association’s (ALA) Freedom to Read Statement.

“BPL is combating the negative impact of increased censorship and book bans in libraries across the country with #BooksUnbanned,” BPL’s tweet post reads. “With libraries facing an increasingly coordinated and effective effort to remove books from library shelves.”

According to the report of ALA, 2021 holds the highest number of attempted book bans since it began compiling the list of books being challenged 20 years ago. There are a total of 729 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services in 2021, which translates to 1,597 book removals or challenges. Most of the challenged books included on the list were those dedicated to teens and related to Black or LGBTQIA+ individuals.

ALA also provided the specific top 10 reasons since 2020 why the books on its compiled list were challenged or banned. Sexual content tops the list, with 92.5% of challenged books containing the concept. It is followed by other reasons, such as offensive language (61.5%), unsuited to age group (49%), religious viewpoint (26%), LGBTQIA+ content (23.5%), violence (19%), racism (16.5%), use of illegal substances (12.5%, “anti-family” content (7%), and political viewpoint (6.5%).

From the list provided by the ALA since the year 2000, some famous titles were even also challenged, including the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling for anti-family, occult/Satanism, religious viewpoint, and violence; The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain for offensive language; Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson for occult/Satanism and offensive language; To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee for offensive language, racism, and unsuited to age group; and The Holy Bible for religious viewpoint. Other newer titles include Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan, The Kite Runner written by Khaled Hosseini, Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James, and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

With this, BPL is making the selection of ebooks and audiobooks banned or challenged at other places accessible under the new movement. The public library is now accepting applications by sending an email to [email protected].

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