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New York Public Library makes banned books available for free

Visitors look at a globe in the map division at the main branch of the New York Public Library in New York. The library announced an effort this week to make commonly banned books available through their app.
Seth Wenig
/
AP
Visitors look at a globe in the map division at the main branch of the New York Public Library in New York. The library announced an effort this week to make commonly banned books available through their app.

In response to the more than 1,500 books challenged to be removed from libraries in the last year, the New York Public Library launched an effort to make some banned books available for everyone — for free.

The initiative is called Books for All and allows any reader aged 13 and older to access commonly banned books through the library's app until the end of May. There are no wait times to access the books and no fines, the library said. Typically, access to books at the New York Public Library are only available to New Yorkers with a library card.

"The recent instances of both attempted and successful book banning —primarily on titles that explore race, LGBTQ+ issues, religion, and history — are extremely disturbing and amount to an all-out attack on the very foundation of our democracy," said Tony Marx, president of the New York Public Library.

"Knowledge is power; ignorance is dangerous, breeding hate 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 efforts launched on April 13. The books currently available are Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi, and The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.

Brooklyn Public Library also announced a similar initiative called Books Unbanned for those aged 13-21.

Nikole Hannah-Jones, creator of The 1619 Project and a Brooklyn Public Library board member, tweeted: "This is such a fantastic move and a template for how other institutions in states that AREN'T banning 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 to library, school and university material in 2021, the highest number since the organization started tracking it in 2000.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Deepa Shivaram
Deepa Shivaram is a multi-platform political reporter on NPR's Washington Desk.

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