Efforts to remove the books from school and public libraries across the United States accelerated during the 2021-22 school year. A new report from PEN America shows that there were more than 2,500 book bans last year in 140 school districts representing a total of nearly 4 million students.
The unprecedented increase in attempts to remove books from school libraries has often been led by individuals and groups who oppose books dealing with racism, gender identity or sexual orientation. The most common objections in book challenges relate to sexual content, profanity and content “unsuitable for any age group”, according to the American Library Association. A survey conducted earlier this year on behalf of the ALA revealed that the the vast majority of voters oppose efforts to remove the books school and public libraries.
A local library (a very large one) is taking steps to ensure that all teens across the United States have access to books that may have been removed from their school or local libraries. Brooklyn Public Library opened Books not prohibiteda website that allows anyone between the ages of 13 and 21 to apply for a free library card that will allow them to download e-books from their collection.
This week also marks the American Library Association event Banned Books Week — a good time to learn about the bans and get a free library card to find books that may no longer be available at your school.
How are books removed from school libraries?
Many public school districts are run by local councils of elected officials who have power over the policies of their school libraries. These school boards often allow book “challenges” – arguments from an individual or group as to why a book should not be made available to students.
School districts usually have committees of librarians or other school officials who will review book challenges. If the committee or ruling group decides to remove the book from school libraries, the book is considered “banned” by the school district.
At the beginning of this year, The New York Times reported that “parents, activists, school board officials, and lawmakers across the country are challenging the books at a pace not seen in decades.” The PEN America study found that a total of 1,648 individual book titles were removed from school libraries in 32 states during the past school year.
However, PEN America also notes that only 4% of book bans in 2021 resulted from official challenges. The vast majority were “initiated by school administrators or board members…sometimes in response to feedback from community members at board meetings.”
Which books are deleted?
Most banned books are written for teens, and the main reasons are sexual content, profanity, violence, racism and LGBTQ+ content, according to the ALA.
The book’s challenges have been criticized for focusing on black or LGBTQ+ authors. The ALA Notes that in 2021, “most targeted books were written by or about black or LGBTQ+ people”.
Of the 1,648 books banned last year, 41% “explicitly address LGBTQ+ themes or have major protagonists or supporting characters who are LGBTQ+” and 40% “contain major protagonists or supporting characters of color,” according to The latest report from PEN America.
How can teens get a free Brooklyn Public Library card to read banned books?
Anyone between the ages of 13 and 21 can now get a free Brooklyn Public Library card as part of their Books not prohibited project. The free account can be used to view eBooks or audiobooks online.
There is no online application, however. Teens should email the library at firstname.lastname@example.org to request their free card.
The library one List of non-banned books currently has 23 books that are always instantly available to everyone as ebooks with no holds or wait times. Titles include Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison.
Teens with the free library cards will also be able to access the Brooklyn Public Library’s entire online catalog — 350,000 eBooks, 200,000 audiobooks, and several online databases.
According to CNNBrooklyn Public Library has issued more than 5,100 free cards to teens across the country since the program launched in the spring of 2022. Those teens have so far made about 18,000 checkouts per month.
Although the library’s website still states that free maps for teens around the world will be available “for a limited time,” the CNN report notes that due to the program’s success, the library plans to extend it indefinitely. .