Brooklyn Public Library is doing what it can to stem the tide on the wave of book censorship sweeping the country by issuing eCards to teens nationwide so they can access books banned in their local communities.

Books UnBanned has been designed by librarians and teen volunteers to help youth across the U.S. combat the negative impact of increased censorship and book bans by issuing those aged 13 to 21 free eCards from BPL, unlocking access to the library’s extensive collection of eBooks, BPL said in a statement.

The library said that while challenges to books and ideas were not new, the initiative was a response to “an increasingly coordinated and effective effort to remove books tackling a wide range of topics from library shelves.”

The American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom counted more than 700 complaints last year, the most since it began keeping records more than 20 years ago, BPL said.

“Access to information is the great promise upon which public libraries were founded,” said Linda E. Johnson, Brooklyn Public Library’s president and CEO.

“We cannot sit idly by while books rejected by a few are removed from the library shelves for all. Books UnBanned will act as an antidote to censorship, offering teens and young adults across the country unlimited access to our extensive collection of ebooks and audiobooks, including those which may be banned in their home libraries.”

The eCard gives access to 350,00 e-books, 200,000 audiobooks and over 100 databases, and it will be valid for one year to complement access to resources for teens in their local communities, BPL said.

Those who take part will also be connected to teens in Brooklyn, including members of BPL’s Intellectual Freedom Teen Council,to help one another with information and resources to fight censorship, book recommendations and the defense of the freedom to read.

As part of the initiative, the library will also make a selection of frequently challenged books available with no holds or wait times for all BPL cardholders. The books include: Black Flamingo by Dean Atta, Tomboy by Liz Prince, The Bluest Eyeby Toni Morrison, The 1619 Projectby Nikole Hannah-Jones, Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera, OnEarth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong, and Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison.

BPL Chief Librarian Nick Higgins said the library stood “firmly against censorship and for the principles of intellectual freedom — the right of every individual to seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction.”

“Limiting access or providing one-sided information is a threat to democracy itself.”

To learn more about the program or apply for a free eCard, teens can send a note to [email protected] or via the Library’s s teen-run Instagram account, @bklynfuture.

Anna Bradley-Smith

Anna Bradley-Smith is Brooklyn-based reporter with bylines in NBC, VICE, Slate and others. Follow her on Twitter @annabradsmith.

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  1. Let them start to read “Gender Wueer” with its comic book depiction of a boy on his knees sucking off another boy …that’s just what you want your kids reading and thinking that aberrant behavior is normal. God help us!

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