NY Public Library to US: Get Your Banned Books Here

Program makes 4 titles banned in other jurisdictions free to download
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 18, 2022 7:30 PM CDT
NY Public Library to US: Get Your Banned Books Here
The Rose Main Reading Room of the New York Public Library's main branch.   (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

(Newser) – The New York Public Library is pushing back against book bans elsewhere in the country by making banned books available to all—with no New York library card needed. The Books for All initiative will allow readers over 13 anywhere in the country to access four books that have been banned in some jurisdictions for dealing with themes including race and sexuality, NPR reports. The titles, which will be available until the end of May, are Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi, and perennially banned book The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger.

"The recent instances of both attempted and successful book banning—primarily on titles that explore race, LGBTQ+ issues, religion, and history—are extremely disturbing and amount to an all-out attack on the very foundation of our democracy," library president Tony Marx said in a statement, noting that the American Library Association reported a record 729 attempted bans of 1,597 individual books last year. "The Library’s role is to make sure no perspective, no idea, no identity is erased," Marx said.

The library worked with authors and publishers to ensure that the books would be available with no fees or wait times. Angela Montefinise, the library's vice president of communications and marketing, tells Engadget that the library's SimplyE app had to increase server capacity three times to deal with a spike in downloads when the program launched last week. "Making these books available shouldn’t feel like an act of defiance, but sadly, it is," Marx said. "And we are proud to be part of it." (Read more banned books stories.)

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