The New York Public Library (NYPL) is partnering with the American Library Association and Unite Against Book Bans to launch the “Books for All” campaign during Banned Books Week, held October 1–7, to underscore the importance of reading and access to knowledge for all and the vital role that public libraries play in our democracy. The partnership comes as the United States experiences an alarming rise in book bans and challenges throughout the country.
“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,” said NYPL President Anthony W. Marx. “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 free people have the right to choose for themselves…. We welcome everyone to read along and join us.”
“Books for All” aims to reach readers of all ages, but with a major focus on teen youth and engagement as most books currently being banned or challenged are young adult books. It will run through the end of June 2024. The campaign will include the “Books for All: Teen Banned Book Club" that will provide unlimited access to select young adult titles that have been the subject of bans and/or challenges to anyone via NYPL’s SimplyE app.
The first book featured in the club will be Mark Oshiro’s Each of Us a Desert, which will be available for download to anyone—even those without a NYPL library card—from October 2 through November 30. There will also be access to physical copies of the book for checkout at branches for NYPL patrons at all branches in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island. Select branches will also host in-person book clubs.
“Books For All” will also include a writing contest in partnership with 826 National, the hub of the largest youth writing network in the nation. Winning submissions will be published in NYPL’s Teen Voices magazine in spring 2024. The grand prize winner will receive a $500 cash prize, and 20 additional essays will receive a $250 prize. Contestants must be between 13-19 and can submit entries at nypl.org/booksforall.
The campaign is instrumental to protecting the freedom to read for everyone, as well as the lives and livelihoods of librarians and library workers across the country who are the frontlines of the battle against censorship, says Marx.
“Since their founding, public libraries have combated the forces of ignorance and hate by making information and knowledge freely available to all,” Marx said. “With this campaign, we stand in solidarity with the library workers and communities across the country who are being censored and threatened. 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.”
Learn more about "Books for All," the book club, writing contest, and the many associated events being held at NYPL branches throughout Banned Books Week at NYPL online. For more information on Banned Books Week, visit ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom.
Photo: The New York Public Library Main Branch, by melanzane1013, CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED.