The Brooklyn Public Library Gives Every Teenager in the U.S. Free Access to Books Getting Censored by American Schools

We have cov­ered it before: school dis­tricts across the Unit­ed States are increas­ing­ly cen­sor­ing books that don’t align with white-washed con­ser­v­a­tive visions of the world. Art Spiegel­man’s Maus, The Illus­trat­ed Diary of Anne Frank, Alice Walk­er’s The Col­or Pur­ple, Toni Mor­rison’s The Bluest Eye, and Harp­er Lee’s To Kill a Mock­ing­bird–these are some of the many books get­ting pulled from library shelves in Amer­i­can schools. In response to this con­cern­ing trend, the Brook­lyn Pub­lic Library has made a bold move: For a lim­it­ed time, the library will offer a free eCard to any per­son aged 13 to 21 across the Unit­ed States, allow­ing them free access to 500,000 dig­i­tal books, includ­ing many cen­sored books. The Chief Librar­i­an for the Brook­lyn Pub­lic Library, Nick Hig­gins said:

A pub­lic library rep­re­sents all of us in a plu­ral­is­tic soci­ety we exist with oth­er peo­ple, with oth­er ideas, oth­er view­points and per­spec­tives and that’s what makes a healthy democ­ra­cy — not shut­ting down access to those points of view or silenc­ing voic­es that we don’t agree with, but expand­ing access to those voic­es and hav­ing con­ver­sa­tions and ideas that we agree with and ideas that we don’t agree with.

And he added:

This is an intel­lec­tu­al free­dom to read ini­tia­tive by the Brook­lyn Pub­lic Library. You know, we’ve been pay­ing atten­tion to a lot of the book chal­lenges and bans that have been tak­ing place, par­tic­u­lar­ly over the last year in many places across the coun­try. We don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly expe­ri­ence a whole lot of that here in Brook­lyn, but we know that there are library patrons and library staff who are fac­ing these and we want­ed to fig­ure out a way to step in and help, par­tic­u­lar­ly for young peo­ple who are see­ing, some books in their library col­lec­tions that may rep­re­sent them, but they’re being tak­en off the shelves.

As for how to get the Brook­lyn Pub­lic Library’s free eCard, their Books Unbanned web­site offers the fol­low­ing instruc­tions: “indi­vid­u­als ages 13–21 can apply for a free BPL eCard, pro­vid­ing access to our full eBook col­lec­tion as well as our learn­ing data­bas­es. To apply, email” In short, send them an email.

You can find a list of Amer­i­ca’s most fre­quent­ly banned books at the web­site of the Amer­i­can Library Asso­ci­a­tion.

NOTE: We’re see­ing reports on Twit­ter that a teacher in Nor­man, OK has been ter­mi­nat­ed for let­ting a stu­dent know about the Brook­lyn Pub­lic Library’s free library. While this report has­n’t been ful­ly sub­stan­ti­at­ed, teach­ers who want to rec­om­mend this resource should pro­ceed with cau­tion. Par­ents could seem­ing­ly refer BPL’s free library to stu­dents with less con­cern about retal­i­a­tion.

via KTVB

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Relat­ed Con­tent 

Texas School Board Bans Illus­trat­ed Edi­tion of The Diary of Anne Frank

Ten­nessee School Board Bans Maus, the Pulitzer-Prize Win­ning Graph­ic Nov­el on the Holo­caust; the Book Becomes #1 Best­seller on Ama­zon

The 850 Books a Texas Law­mak­er Wants to Ban Because They Could Make Stu­dents Feel Uncom­fort­able

Umber­to Eco Makes a List of the 14 Com­mon Fea­tures of Fas­cism

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Comments (10)
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  • KYLE says:

    So, once again, there is no “ban” on books in the states that you’re sug­gest­ing. Like Maus or Anne Frank diary accord­ing to “the Keller ISD web­site, each of the two books had appar­ent­ly been chal­lenged by a lone par­ent.” Also most of the oth­er so-called banned books are still on the library shelves and not chal­lenged by any teach­ers or fac­ul­ty, most of them are just not taught in their cur­ricu­lum. This is just left-wing rad­i­cals try­ing to make red states look like crazy, book burn­ing nazis. All of the media talk­ing about “banned books” could eas­i­ly be fact-checked.

  • Roger Jones says:

    It would­n’t be “Open” Cul­ture if there weren’t a reg­u­lar des­per­ate attempt to smear “con­ser­v­a­tives” with exact­ly what left­ists love–tyranny, cen­sor­ship (only “dis­in­for­ma­tion,” of course!), and fas­cism. But it’s a char­ac­ter issue. The same ones who love vio­lent, oppres­sive gov­ern­ment think noth­ing of lying and cheat­ing to achieve their goal (see: Sam Har­ris’s recent admis­sion about steal­ing the 2020 election)…the scor­pi­on and frog tale, that kind of thing. “Accuse your ene­mies of what *you* do.” — Karl Marx

  • Francis says:

    “Attached is a list of all books that were chal­lenged last year. By the end of today, I need all books pulled from the library and class­rooms. Please col­lect these books and store them in a loca­tion. (book room, office, etc.),” Price wrote in the email on Tues­day.

    That’s the USA today report on Keller … the email itself speaks to removal from the libraries (not to say a nar­row mind­ed approach to remov­ing from cur­ricu­lum is a non­event, though, but since library access was you main point).

    Detailed PEN report — includ­ing spe­cif­ic instances of library removal cat­a­logued here. I think they did fact check this quite care­ful­ly. I get your not want­i­ng your state to be vil­li­fied (think­ing you may be in a red one) but please do con­sid­er that besides the rhetoric there real­ly is a dis­turb­ing trend there.

    Any­body on Open Cul­ture is no doubt hap­py to check out the sources — so do check out the Pen report.

  • Francis says:

    No doubt some­body read­ing on Open Cul­ture is pret­ty thought­ful, so I want­ed to pass along the detailed report­ing on banned books (includ­ing those pulled from shelves, not just cur­ricu­lum) done by PEN. Read down for the chart on the attached.

    It’s a real issue, and for that mat­ter I think it’s also a prob­lem when there is a nar­row mind­ed group of par­ents eas­i­ly knock­ing things out of the cur­ricu­lum. But your focus was on actu­al­ly pulled from shelves cen­sor­ship (so there’s the PEN report for that).

    FWIW, not sure on the cur­rent sta­tus at Keller — but USA Today includ­ed the direct text from the email that pre­ced­ed the “review”

    “Attached is a list of all books that were chal­lenged last year. By the end of today, I need all books pulled from the library and class­rooms. Please col­lect these books and store them in a loca­tion. (book room, office, etc.),” Price wrote in the email on Tues­day.

    Rhetoric gets hot on this top­ic, but there actu­al­ly is a “there” there gen­er­al­ly even if those books get back on the Keller shelves.

  • OC says:


    If books are being pulled from shelves, then they are essen­tial­ly being cen­sored, which is how our post frames it.

    As for the Brook­lyn Pub­lic Library, they refer to banned books. Some schools have out­right banned books. Oth­ers have removed books from shelves, with­out out­right ban­ning them. In each case, the net effect on stu­dents is the same–their intel­lec­tu­al free­dom is being lim­it­ed. Your pars­ing of words does­n’t change the bot­tom line.


  • Francis Fryscak says:

    Well said OC.

  • Justin says:

    Fas­cism is a far-right ide­ol­o­gy dum dum. It has noth­ing to do with left­ism. Regard­less of your polit­i­cal align­ment the cen­sor­ship of books in PUBLIC libraries is a bla­tant vio­la­tion of the first amend­ment and some­thing that author­i­tar­i­ans love.

  • Joe says:

    Exact­ly right, Kyle.

  • Donna says:

    Because this is what red states do. They bul­ly and whine at any­thing that isn’t defined with­in their narrow–often unin­formed –scope of what THEY think is accept­able. I’ve nev­er seen a group more afraid of knowl­edge and ideas. It’s pret­ty pathet­ic.

  • Lyuba says:

    Ide­ol­o­gy aside,the well mean­ing ini­tia­tive to give library mem­ber­ship to thou­sands non Brook­lyn res­i­dents will, poten­tial­ly, increase my wait time for avail­able ebooks. It is long enough as it is.

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