This blog post is by Tony Marx, President of The New York Public Library, and Brian Bannon, Merryl and James Tisch Director of Branch Libraries and Education. The New York Public Library is a Unite Against Book Bans partner.
In America today our basic freedoms are under attack: the freedom to choose what to read, to learn about new ideas and experiences, to see and understand more about ourselves and others. A vocal minority seeks to censor not just books, but the people in those books, because they find them uncomfortable. We know that stories are powerful and can shape our lives, open our eyes, and change the world, but unlike advocates of book banning, we believe that’s a good thing and that people have the right to choose for themselves.
Since their founding, public libraries have combated the forces of ignorance and hate by making information and knowledge freely available to all. Now, library workers across the country are standing at the frontline of these challenges, continuously upholding our values while also having to serve as negotiators and defenders.
The New York Public Library stands in solidarity with the library workers and communities across the country who are being censored and threatened—which is why we are building on our efforts to combat such censorship with our largest-ever anti-censorship initiative.
Kicking off during this year’s Banned Books Week—and extending throughout the year—NYPL is launching Books for All, a major initiative providing a wide array of offerings to unite our communities against book bans. And because the majority of book bans and challenges impact access for young people the most, we’re proud to partner with the American Library Association to engage teens across the country.
A key part of our initiative is a major year-long teen banned book club, featuring free digital access to banned or challenged titles. The first title, Each of Us a Desert by Mark Oshiro, is available to everyone nationwide—no library card required—through our free e-reading app, SimplyE. Plus, teens across the country are invited to enter our national writing contest on the importance of reading freely, in addition to a host of programs, events, and more for all ages. To help libraries, school groups, and readers across the country, we’ve designed a free toolkit—complete with flyers, book discussion guides, social media tools, and more—to help participants promote these offerings in their local communities.
This issue impacts all of us—not only our libraries but also our communities and the very foundations of what it means to live in a healthy and free society. We all have a role to play in protecting everyone’s right to access the full range of ideas, voices, and experiences our society has to offer. That is where our strength as a nation comes from. We welcome everyone to read along and join us.