Apr 15, 2022 - Politics & Policy

New York Public Library makes some banned books free to all

Photo of multiple floors of bookshelves at a library
Interior view of newly redesigned Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library, the New York Public Library's main branch, on June 1, 2021. Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

The New York Public Library (NYPL) announced this week that it will make some commonly banned books available for free in response to increasing attempts to ban books across the nation.

Why it matters: The American Library Association tracked over 729 attempted bans of 1,597 books in 2021. Many of these bans target topics related to race, LGBTQ issues and history.

Details: The project, a partnership with the publishers Hachette Book Group, Macmillan Publishers and Scholastic, will offer four books through the Books for All Collection.

  • Typically, books at the NYPL are available only to New Yorkers who have a library card, but anyone can access the books via the NYPL's e-reader app, which will offer unlimited downloads with or without a library card through May.

These four books 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
  • "The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger

What they're saying: "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," NYPL President Tony Marx said in a statement.

  • "All people have the right to read or not read what they want — we are all entitled to make those choices ... Any effort to eliminate those choices stands in opposition to freedom of choice, and we cannot let that happen."
  • "The Library’s role is to make sure no perspective, no idea, no identity is erased. People have the right to read or not read what they want, but those books need to be available — for the teen who has questions and wants to privately find answers; for the adult who is curious about subjects for which they have no personal experience; for those who want to do their own research and make informed decisions based on fact," the NYPL added.
  • "Making these books available shouldn’t feel like an act of defiance, but sadly, it is. And we are proud to be part of it."
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