Photo: Jonathan Blanc / NYPL.
Campaign launches during Banned Books Week and includes unlimited access to select books that have been the subject of bans and/or challenges and national writing contest aimed at amplifying teen voices.
In recognition of the alarming rise of book bans and challenges throughout the country, The New York Public Library is launching “Books for All” during Banned Books Week (Oct. 1-7) to underscore the importance of reading and access to knowledge for all, and the vital role that public libraries play in our democracy.
The campaign, which will run through the school year (ending in June) and is the longest anti-censorship campaign in NYPL history, will aim to reach all ages but with a major focus on teen youth and engagement, in recognition of the fact that the majority of books currently being banned or challenged are young adult books. The campaign will include a new “Books for All: Teen Banned Book Club” that will provide unlimited access to select young adult titles that have been the subject of bans and/or challenges to anyone via the Library’s SimplyE app, as well as a national teen writing contest that will ask teens around the country: “What does the freedom to read mean to them?”
To reach teens all over the country, the Library is partnering with the American Library Association (ALA), the foremost national organization representing the nation’s 123,000 libraries, and the impactful Unite Against Book Bans’ campaign ALA founded.
ALA recently released new preliminary data documenting 695 book challenges during the first eight months of 2023, an increase of 20 percent from the same period last year, which was the highest on record. The preliminary data also suggests that censorship efforts are increasingly being directed at public libraries, which accounted for 49% of documented challenges, up from 16 percent during the same reporting period in 2022.
ALA is the co-author of the historic “Freedom to Read” statement from 1953 that begins: “The freedom to read is essential to our democracy. It is continuously under attack.” Public libraries have had a unique role in protecting this fundamental right since their inception, and this campaign will highlight how book bans threaten the free flow of ideas so crucial to our democracy and threaten to erase experiences and identities. The overwhelming majority of the books being challenged or banned center the experiences of LGBTQ+ people and/or the experiences of people of color.
The first book in the book club is Mark Oshiro’s “Each of Us a Desert.” The book will be available for download to anyone – regardless of whether or not they have a NYPL library card – on 10/2 through 11/30. Thanks to a partnership with Macmillan Publishers, there will be unlimited access to the book, which means no wait times, through the Library’s SimplyE app. There will also be access to physical copies of book club books for checkout at branches for NYPL patrons at all branches in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island (the boroughs served by NYPL). Select branches will also host in-person book clubs. For more information on the book clubs, head to nypl.org/booksforall.
Every two months, the next book club pick will be announced with the next title to be announced later this year.
The writing contest, which is being done in partnership with 826 National, the hub of the largest youth writing network in the nation, will open on September 28. Winning submissions will be published in a special edition of NYPL’s Teen Voices magazine in spring 2024. The grand prize winner will receive a $500 cash prize, and 20 additional essays will receive a $250 prize. Contestants must be between 13-19 and can submit entries at nypl.org/booksforall.
“In America today our basic freedoms are under attack: the freedom to choose what to read, to learn about new ideas and experiences, to see and understand more about ourselves and others. A vocal minority seeks to censor not just books, but the people in those books, because they find them uncomfortable. We know that stories are powerful and can shape our lives, open our eyes, and change the world but unlike advocates of book banning, we believe that’s a good thing and that free people have the right to choose for themselves. Since their founding, public libraries have combated the forces of ignorance and hate by making information and knowledge freely available to all. With this campaign, we stand in solidarity with the library workers and communities across the country who are being censored and threatened. We all have a role to play in protecting everyone’s right to access the full range of ideas, voices, and experiences our society has to offer. That is where our strength as a nation comes from. We welcome everyone to read along and join us,” said NYPL President Anthony W. Marx.
“Every library exists to serve every member of the community. I am pleased that NYPL, in partnership with ALA, is taking this initiative to protect every American’s right to read,” said ALA President Emily Drabinski.
“I’ve spent most of my career as an author writing in libraries, and I spent an enormous amount of time in them as a kid. Books were always a safe place for me to land, especially as I desperately sought stories and worlds that helped me feel seen and understood. I continue to write with my younger self in mind, knowing that there are readers all over who need the power of literature in their lives just like I did all those years ago. It’s no surprise that this same artistic expression is under fire across this country, but I am committed to creative honesty and will remain in service to young readers as long as I can be,” said Mark Oshiro, the first author to be featured in the NYPL Teen Banned Book Club.
“I don’t see people who look like me and talk like me in the books at my school library in Fort Worth, Texas and this problem is only getting worse as we operate under the shadow of HB900. Hundreds of books have already been pulled in anticipation of the law going into effect. For someone who loves books as much as I do, it is simply heartbreaking. Everyone deserves to have access to books where they see themselves, and have their identity affirmed. To deny us that is to deny us our humanity. I am proud to stand with The New York Public Library and the American Library Association to unite against book bans and the coordinated efforts to erase identities like mine. Together, we can fight censorship and the silencing of voices,” Banned Books Week 2023 Youth Honorary Chair Da’Taeveyon Daniels.
“We are honored to be part of the Books for All campaign and to offer Mark Oshiro’s Each of Us a Desert to readers across the country, especially to those who may not have had the opportunity to read it otherwise. We proudly stand with our authors, the New York Public Library, and fellow readers as we work together to push back against book bans,” said Jon Yaged, CEO, Macmillan Publishers.
“Libraries and the literature they hold have always been a portal into a different world, as well as a way to imagine a tangible new one. Banning books is the threat of banning histories, people, and dreams. We must all stand firm in our opposition to the silencing of our authentic stories. You cannot ban marginalized people. We will always be here, and we demand that our literature and art be here too,” said Stephanie Pacheco, New York City Youth Poet Laureate and Inaugural New York State Youth Poet Laureate
Other highlights of the Library’s commitment to standing against book banning include –
TeenLIVE x Banned Books Week: Mark Oshiro
October 3 at 11 AM, at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
Bestselling author, and the first author to be featured in the NYPL Teen Banned Book Club, Mark Oshiro will discuss their books, censorship, and why it’s crucial for young people to have the opportunity to see themselves represented in the books they read. NYPL Teen Ambassadors will be in conversation with Oshiro at the event, and are available for interviews.
Loud and Proud: Latinx Representation and Empowerment Against Censorship at Bronx Library Center
October 3 at 6:30 PM at the Bronx Library Center
Featured panelists—Emanuel Xavier, Melissa Rivero, Adriana Herrera — who have all grappled with issues of censorship in writing discuss the current climate of book bans and challenges, as well as the importance and joy of self-expression, moderated by Bronx-based author and activist Charles Rice-González.
#FreedomToRead Digital Day of Action: A New York City-wide, one day digital activation on 10/4 at 10 AM in which New York City’s three public libraries stand together to support the #FreedomToRead and encourage supporters and patrons to stand against book bans on social media. For more information, please visit nypl.org/freedomtoread.
“Banned: Censorship and Free Expression in America”
October 5 at 7 PM, at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
A LIVE From NYPL partnership with The Atlantic featuring a conversation with authors Ayad Akhtar and Imani Perry on how attempts to silence artists threaten democracy, and what we can do to fight back.
Freedom to Read: A Conversation about Censorship and a Banned Books Exhibit by Photographer Kimberly Butler
October 6, 6 PM at Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library
Photographer Kimberly Butler presents images from her latest collection inspired by banned books, and hear from New York City public library leaders Rosa Caballero-Li (New York Public Library), Nick Buron (Queens Public Library),and Nick Higgins (Brooklyn Public Library) discuss the role of public libraries in providing free and open access to information while and supporting a democratic society’s right to explore a wide range of viewpoints. The conversation will be moderated by WNYC’s Brooke Gladstone.
The Library’s latest banned books campaign builds on our earlier efforts fighting censorship, including our previous Books for All (April 2022) and the Banned Books Challenge (June 2022), which was done in collaboration with Brooklyn and Queens Public Libraries.
About Macmillan Publishers
Macmillan Publishers is the U.S. trade division of the Holtzbrinck Publishing Group, a large family-owned media company headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany. Its publishing companies include prominent imprints around the world that publish a broad range of award-winning books for children and adults in all categories and formats. U.S. publishers include Celadon Books, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Flatiron Books, Henry Holt & Company, Macmillan Audio, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, The St. Martin’s Publishing Group, and Tor Publishing Group. In the UK, Australia, India, and South Africa, Macmillan publishes under the Pan Macmillan name. The German company, Holtzbrinck Deutsche Buchverlage, includes among its imprints S. Fischer, Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Rowohlt, and Droemer Knaur.
About the American Library Association
The American Library Association (ALA) is the foremost national organization providing resources to inspire library and information professionals to transform their communities through essential programs and services. For more than 140 years, the ALA has been the trusted voice for academic, public, school, government, and special libraries, advocating for the profession and the library’s role in enhancing learning and ensuring access to information for all. For more information, visit the ALA website at ALA.org.
About Unite Against Book Bans
Unite Against Book Bans is a national initiative launched by ALA in April 2022 to empower readers everywhere to stand together in the fight against censorship. With more than 200 partner organizations and tens of thousands of individual supporters, the campaign connects, equips and mobilizes the public to advocate in their communities for the right to read and to defeat attempts at at every level of government to censor reading material. Learn more and join the campaign at uniteagainstbookbans.org/take-action/.
About The New York Public Library
For over 125 years, The New York Public Library has been a free provider of education and information for the people of New York and beyond. With over 90 locations—including research and branch libraries—throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, the Library offers free materials, computer access, classes, exhibitions, programming and more to everyone from toddlers to scholars. To offer this wide array of free programming, The New York Public Library relies on both public and private funding. Learn more about how to support the Library at nypl.org/support.