In recent months, the Brooklyn Public Library has given out more than 5,100 free e-library cards to young people across the nation, the library’s chief librarian, Nick Higgins, told CNN.
Since then, readers between the ages of 13 and 21 in every state in the country and Washington, D.C. have applied for e-cards, Higgins said, checking out 18,000 e-books or audiobooks each month.
“On the one hand, it’s great that we’ve been able to step in and help people in their time of need with access to strong library collections, but it’s really telling that many of us across the country are making significant censorship efforts. We need to come together to push back,” Higgins said.
Higgins said the library has received hundreds of messages from teenagers and their families who have shared their gratitude, how they’ve seen books taken off the shelves and even the frustration some feel about not having a library near their homes.
Due to the success of the initiative, the Brooklyn Public Library plans to run the program indefinitely. Young people will continue to get a free e-library card for one year and will be able to renew it, Higgins said.
Card holders have access to the library’s 350,000 e-book archive; Over 200,000 audiobooks and 100 databases. The library also offers a “selection of frequently questioned books” with no holds or waits for cardholders, including Dean Atta’s “The Black Flamingo,” Liz Prince’s “Tomboy,” Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” and “The Black Flamingo” included. Nikole Hannah-Jones’ The 1619 Project,” Gabby Rivera’s “Juliet Takes a Breath,” Ocean Vuong’s “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous,” and Jonathan Evison’s “Lawn Boy.”
As part of the initiative, a group of New York teens who are members of the library’s Teen Intellectual Freedom Council invited teens who had obtained e-cards to meet virtually. Now, teenagers from Texas, Alabama and other states meet once a month to discuss censorship and ways to push back in their communities.
“Seeing a group of people connect with each other across state lines, come together to try to find a shared understanding of a particular issue and how it affects them is really inspiring. It’s really what this initiative is all about,” Higgins. he said
Public libraries have been embroiled in a national debate over what titles people, especially children, can access as conservative groups and individuals single out books that deal with race, gender or sexuality.
“These global groups capitalize on this lack of knowledge from everyday citizens and use rhetoric to describe books like pornography and erotica, especially books on LGBTQ+ issues and sexual health books written by experts like the American Psychological Association,” Jones told CNN. at the beginning of this month. “They are not interested in the truth.”