Photo: Mobyblu, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Debut of Borrowed and Banned, A New Podcast Featuring Conversations with Banned Book Authors George M. Johnson, Maia Kobabe, and Mike Curato 

New Webpage For Teens To Share Their Stories of Bans and Bullying And Citywide Day of Action on Wednesday, October 4

In preparation for Banned Books Week, Brooklyn Public Library (BPL), a nationwide leader in the fight against censorship, announced today the historic expansion of Books Unbanned, the library’s viral freedom to read campaign. Since April 2022, more than 7000 young people from all 50 states, ages 13 to 21, have applied for a free BPL library e-card, providing them access to the Library’s entire digital collection of half a million items. In total, they have checked out over 156,000 books. The program has launched a nationwide movement with Seattle Public Library joining this spring. Now, Boston Public Library, LA County Library, and San Diego Public Library have announced plans to join the Books Unbanned program, launching e-cards and opening their collections, providing additional points of access for young people facing book bans all over the country.

In addition, Brooklyn Public Library debuts a new podcast series today titled Borrowed and Banned. Created by award-winning producer Virginia Marshall, the series investigates an alarming rise in book bans: last year, over 2500 unique titles were challenged in libraries across the country, the highest number in over 20 years. Over seven episodes, Borrowed and Banned tells the story of America’s ideological war with its bookshelves by talking with the people most impacted: the students on the frontlines, the librarians and teachers whose livelihoods are endangered when they speak up, and the writers whose books have become political battleground. The narrative podcast features interviews with some of the country’s most banned authors including Maia Kobabe, George M. Johnson, and Mike Curato, along with young people on the front lines.

The Library will also lead a Citywide Day of Action on Wednesday, October 4 with their partners at the New York and Queens Public Libraries. New Yorkers are asked to post a photo on a social media with their favorite book and the hashtag #FreedomtoRead

In addition, the Library is launching a new page on its website where teens can submit their experiences with censorship, including the dangers they face as they seek the freedom to read. A majority of books censored are written for young adults and teens and have LGBTQIA themes or feature characters of color. Teens are often caught in the middle between parents, educators and legislators just as they are discovering their own identities.

Furthermore, throughout the month of October, the Library will host a wide range of programs dedicated to the issue of censorship, including book clubs and story times—where librarians will share picture books that have been banned or challenged around the world. BPL’s Freedom to Read Advocacy Institute with PEN America returns October 19. This online, four-week educational and training program is for high school students and is designed to prepare and certify the next generation of free expression advocates to combat book banning and fight for the freedom to read in their schools, libraries and communities across the country.

On Saturday, October 7, Teen Vogue and BPL will celebrate Let Freedom Read Day with a conference for teens about the importance of literature, access to information, and civic engagement. 

PEN America reports book bans increased 33 percent in the 2022-23 school year compared to the 2021-22 school year driven by deliberately vague legislation and organized political groups who pressure legislators, use extreme rhetoric and threaten and harass educators and librarians. The Washington Post reports seven states have passed laws which would allow librarians to be criminally prosecuted if they provide books with sexually explicit content. A dozen other states are considering similar bills.

“Public Libraries were founded on the promise of access to all books and knowledge without judgement,” said Linda E. Johnson, President and CEO, Brooklyn Public Library. “During Banned Books Week and all year long, Brooklyn Public Library remains fiercely committed to protecting intellectual freedom. We believe deeply that young people in Brooklyn and across the nation must have access to books from all points of view, for this is the foundation of librarianship and democracy writ large.”

About Brooklyn Library
Brooklyn Public Library is one of the nation’s largest library systems and among New York City’s most democratic institutions. As a leader in developing modern 21st century libraries, we provide resources to support personal advancement, foster civic literacy, and strengthen the fabric of community among the more than 2.7 million individuals who call Brooklyn home. We provide nearly 65,000 free programs a year with writers, thinkers, artists, and educators—from around the corner and around the world. And we give patrons millions of opportunities to enjoy one of life’s greatest satisfactions: the joy of a good book.

Leave a Reply