Seth Wenig / AP
In response to the more than 1,500 books challenged to be removed from libraries in the past year, the New York Public Library launched an effort to make some banned books available to everyone – for free.
The initiative is called Books for All and gives any reader aged 13 and older access to commonly banned books through the library’s app until the end of May. There are no waiting times to access the books and no fines, the library said. Typically, access to books at the New York Public Library is only available to New Yorkers with a library card.
“The recent cases of both tried and successful book bans – primarily on titles exploring race, LGBTQ + issues, religion and history – are extremely disturbing and amount to a total attack on the very foundations of our democracy,” said Tony Marx, president of New York Public Library.
“Knowledge is power; ignorance is dangerous, breeds hatred and division … Since their inception, public libraries have worked to combat these forces simply by making all perspectives and ideas accessible to all,” Marx said.
The New York Public Library’s effort was launched on April 13th. The books currently available are Talk by Laurie Halse Anderson, The king and dragonflies by Kacen Callender, Stamped: Racism, anti-racism and you by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi, and Damned youth by JD Salinger.
The Brooklyn Public Library also announced a similar initiative called Books Unbanned for people ages 13-21.
Nikole Hannah-Jones, creator of 1619 project and a board member of the Brooklyn Public Library, tweeted: “This is such an amazing feature and a template for how other institutions in states that do NOT ban books can help those who live in states that are … Healthy societies do not ban books.”
The American Library Association reported earlier this month that there were 729 challenges for library, school, and university materials in 2021, the highest number since the organization began tracking it in 2000.