Event with NYC Libraries Marked Banned Books Week and Recognized Teens at the Forefront of the Fight Against Censorship
Citywide Digital Day of Action on Wednesday to Combat Alarming Rise In Censorship
Mayor Eric Adams joined the presidents of the City’s three public library systems— Brooklyn Public Library (BPL), New York Public Library (NYPL), and Queens Public Library (QPL)— as well as librarians and local teens to commemorate Banned Books Week at Brooklyn’s Central Library. The Mayor presented a proclamation declaring October 4th “Freedom to Read Day” in the City of New York. The Mayor and the library presidents encouraged all New Yorkers to participate in a Citywide Digital Day of Action, also on October 4th, to celebrate literature, public libraries, the power of books, and the #FreedomToRead.
The American Library Association (ALA) recently reported challenges to nearly 2000 unique titles already this year, the highest number since they began compiling data more than 20 years ago. Corresponding with a dramatic increase in anti-trans legislation, the majority of books being removed are by or about the LGBTQIA community or about people of color.
On October 4, New York City’s three public libraries will stand together for a New York City-wide, one-day digital activation to support the freedom to read and encourage supporters and patrons to stand against book bans on social media. New Yorkers are encouraged to post a picture of a meaningful book or themselves holding it, and use #FreedomToRead to share why open access to books, information, and knowledge is important to their community.
“When we ban books, we ban ideas. As lifelong learners, we should always be looking to learn and understand what it looks like to walk in someone else’s shoes,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “Reading is an opportunity to expose people to different perspectives and ideas. As mayor, I am proud to stand with our New York City public library leaders on the side of the freedom to read during Banned Books Week.”
“New York City has always stood as a symbol for freedom of debate, exploration, and opportunity,” said Deputy Mayor for Housing, Economic Development and Workforce Maria Torres-Springer. “Further, New York City’s libraries are the clearest distillation of these ideals, where knowledge and books are shared at no cost and without censorship across the five boroughs. Now, at a time when right-wing attacks are attempting to ban books about the experience of Black, Brown, and LGBTQ+ experiences, New York City is bringing this access across the nation. I thank the Brooklyn, New York, and Queens Public Library systems for their leadership protecting the freedom to read, welcoming diverse perspectives, and sharing access to all who seek to learn.”
Teens are most impacted by book bans, as many of the books banned are Young Adult titles. Over the last year, due in large part to the Adams’ Administration’s historic investment, NYPL saw a 116% increase in teen program attendance and a 21% increase in the circulation of teen materials. Queens Public Library’s teen program attendance grew 176% and teen library card sign ups rose 33% between FY 23 and FY 22. Brooklyn Public Library’s teen programming attendance, including its Intellectual Freedom Council, had an 84 percent increase and its teen internships increased by 64 percent.
“Public Libraries were founded on the promise of providing books without judgment to all who are curious, and I extend my sincere thanks to Mayor Adams for championing the work of the city’s three library systems,” 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.”
“Libraries are facing an extraordinary moment in America, one in which our historic mission and ideals are being challenged and threatened with increasingly coordinated and aggressive censorship attempts. As an institution designed to make knowledge and information accessible to all, The New York Public Library is proud to stand with New York City Mayor Eric Adams and the Brooklyn and Queens Public libraries to celebrate the power of books, libraries and the freedom to read. Libraries and books are for everyone,” said Anthony W. Marx, President of The New York Public Library.
“The recent increase in book challenges and bans — overwhelmingly targeting titles by or about people of color or members of the LGBTQ+ community — exemplifies dangerous attempts to whitewash history and silence marginalized voices, ultimately threatening our democracy,” said Queens Public Library President and CEO Dennis M. Walcott. “Queens Public Library stands firm in our commitment to protect the freedom to read, while ensuring open access to diverse viewpoints and ideas. All books are welcome here.”
In April 2022, Brooklyn Public Library launched Books Unbanned in response to an increasingly coordinated, political and effective effort to remove books from library shelves around the country. Because books for teens are most often the target of challenges, Books Unbanned offers a national e-card to young people, ages 13 to 21, to access BPL’s entire digital collection of approximately half a million items. Since that time, more than 7000 teens have applied for the card—from all 50 states. They have checked out more than 156,000 books. Recently, Seattle, Boston, LA County, and San Diego Public Libraries joined the Books Unbanned effort.
As part of Books Unbanned, BPL launched the Intellectual Freedom Council, a virtual space where teens from across the country can connect with a peer-support network and discuss book challenges, censorship, and intellectual freedom. Most recently, BPL launched a new podcast titled Borrowed and Banned, which 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. BPL has also launched a webpage where teens around the country can share stories of book bans in their communities.
During Banned Books Week, BPL 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 for high school students is designed to prepare and certify the next generation of free expression advocates to combat book banning and fight for the freedom to read. 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.
The New York Public Library has launched a nationwide campaign, “Books For All: Protect the Freedom to Read,” in response to the unprecedented rise in censorship. The campaign underscores the importance of reading and access to knowledge for all, and the vital role that public libraries play in our democracy. The campaign will run through the school year (ending in June) and is the longest anti-censorship campaign in NYPL history. Beginning with Mark Oshiro’s Each of Us a Desert, the new “Books for All: Teen Banned Book Club” will provide unlimited access to select young adult titles that have been the subject of bans and/or challenges, books will be available to readers across the country via the Library’s SimplyE app. To reach teens all over the country, the Library is partnering with the American Library Association (ALA) and their impactful Unite Against Book Bans’ campaign. The Library has also launched a national teen writing contest in partnership with 826 National that will ask teens around the country: “What does the freedom to read mean to them?”
In addition to NYPL’s banned book campaign, branches throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island (the boroughs served by NYPL) will be hosting events and programs about banned books. More information about these events and NYPL’s initiative can be found at www.nypl.org/bannedbooks.
Queens Public Library has lined up its Book Banned Week activities, programs and events under the banner of “All Books Are Welcome Here” to mobilize the public in Queens and beyond to stand against censorship.
At the entrance of every QPL location, large decals stamped with “All Books Are Welcome Here” will remind the public of its commitment to protecting the freedom to read. In addition, QPL will be offering a virtual talk for NYC librarians with Samira Ahmed and Phil Bildner, two authors who have written banned or challenged books, and an online discussion organized by QPL staff and the American LGBTQ+ Museum about the history of LGBTQ+ book bans. Branches throughout the borough will feature displays of popular banned and challenged books, and show movies based on banned books. Peninsula is hosting a banned book open mic, Corona is having a banned books party, the Ridgewood Friends are holding a banned books giveaway, and Forest Hills is presenting a live performance of Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451.”
“New York City is proving to be the bastion of the country’s values: freedom of thought, expression, and speech,” said Councilmember Chi Ossé. “As conservative dominated states and institutions continue their cruel and backward crusade against books, I’m proud to see our library system stand up for literature here at home while making it available to people across the country. As Chair of the Council Committee on Libraries, I’m committed to advancing these efforts to open our doors and open our books to all Americans. We have to stop the bans.”
“As we confront a rising tide of censorship, protecting what people can read is vital,” said Assemblymember Brian A. Cunningham. “New York must lead the way in supporting intellectual freedom and diverse perspectives in literature. I’m grateful to Mayor Adams, New York City Libraries and educational professionals across the country for their work fighting book bans.”
About Brooklyn Public 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 2.6 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.
About Queens Public Library
Queens Public Library is one of the largest and busiest public library systems in the United States, dedicated to serving the most ethnically and culturally diverse area in the country. An independent, non-profit organization founded in 1896, Queens Public Library offers free access to a collection of more than 5 million books and other materials in 200 languages, technology and digital resources. Each year, the Library hosts tens of thousands of educational, cultural, and civic programs and welcomes millions of visitors through its doors. With a presence in nearly every neighborhood across the borough of Queens, the Library consists of 66 locations, including branch libraries, a Central Library, seven adult learning centers, a technology center located in the nation’s largest public housing complex, four teen centers, a standalone teen library, two bookmobiles, and a book bicycle.
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 92 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. The New York Public Library receives approximately millions of visits through its doors annually and more around the globe who use its resources at www.nypl.org. 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.