NYC Libraries Offer Free Digital Library Cards to People Across the United States

New York Libraries are taking a stand against recent book bans by allowing readers across the United States access to their eBooks for a limited time.

The NYPL opens access to a selection of commonly banned books (including Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, king and the dragonflies by Kacen Callender, Stamped: racism, anti-racism and you by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi and The Heart Catcher by JD Salinger through its free e-reader app, SimplyE, through May.

“Not Banned Books” can be browsed, borrowed and read on any iOS or Android device via SimplyE, the free e-reading app, for ages 13 and up. There is a specific “Books For All” collection which contains hundreds of out-of-copyright/public domain books available to anyone in the country, with or without a library card. The “unbanned books” will be in this collection, with the added bonus of no waiting time to read them.

RECOMMENDED: You can now download over 300,000 NYPL books for free

Additionally, the Brooklyn Public Library offers young adults ages 13-21 nationwide the opportunity to request a free e-card from BPL to access the library’s extensive e-book collection. The card will be valid for one year and is designed to complement access to resources for teens in their local communities.

BPL will also offer a selection of frequently challenged books with no holds or wait times for all BPL cardholders via the library’s online catalog or the Libby app, including The black flamingo by Dean Atta, Tomboy by Liz Prince, The bluest eye by Toni Morrison The 1619 Project by Nikole Hannah-Jones, Juliet breathes by Gabby Rivera On Earth, we are briefly beautiful by Ocean Vuong, and lawn boy by Jonathan Evison.

Those aged 13 to 21, who have access to the free BPL eCard, will be able to connect with their peers in Brooklyn, including members of BPL Teen Council for Intellectual Freedom, to help each other with information and resources to fight censorship, book recommendations, and advocate for freedom to read.

To request the card, teens can send a note to [email protected], or through the library’s teen-run Instagram account, @bklynfuture. The $50 fee normally associated with out-of-state cards will be waived. Teens are also encouraged to share videos, essays and stories about the importance of intellectual freedom and the impact challenges and book bans have had on their lives.

The move to provide access to their e-book collections follows a recent concerted effort by groups to remove books from library shelves that cover a wide range of topics, including race, gender and LGBTQ+ issues, religion and history. 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, according to BPL.

The ALA is currently leading a nationwide United Against Banned Books campaign, and NYC libraries also face such challenges.

NYPL’s “Books For All” and BPL’s “Books UnBanned” both seek to support intellectual freedom and open access to knowledge, information, and all perspectives.

“These recent cases of censorship and book bans are extremely disturbing and constitute an all-out assault on the very foundation of our democracy,” said New York Public Library President Anthony W. Marx. ” Knowledge is power ; ignorance is dangerous and breeds hatred and division. Since their inception, public libraries have worked to combat these forces simply by making all perspectives and ideas accessible to everyone, regardless of background or circumstance.”

By partnering with Hachette Book Group, Macmillan Publishers and Scholastic, as well as the authors of selected titles, NYPL was able to make them accessible to everyone. “While this shouldn’t sound like an act of defiance, unfortunately it is. And we’re proud to be part of it,” Marx said.

Linda E. Johnson, president and CEO of BPL, said the library “cannot sit idly by while books rejected by the few are removed from library shelves for all.”

“Books UnBanned will act as an antidote to censorship, giving teens and young adults across the country unrestricted access to our vast collection of eBooks and audiobooks, including those that may be banned from their personal libraries,” a- she declared.

For more headlines to read, NYPL has a few lists you can check out, including “125 books we love for adults, kids and teens,” “The Schomburg Center for Research on Black Liberation from Black Culture
Reading list,” “Vibrant Voices: New Books by Authors of Color” and “Trans, non-binary and GNC voices.”

And young adults in Brooklyn can join BPL Teen Intellectual Freedom Council here.

“The role of the Library is to ensure that no perspective, no idea, no identity is erased,” Marx said. “That has always been our role: to connect people with reliable information. The teenager who has questions and wants to find answers in private. For the adult who is curious about subjects for which he has no personal experience. For those who want to make informed decisions based on facts.Since the founding of our great nation, libraries have been beacons of this kind of curiosity and independent learning, and it is unacceptable that they be censored in any way whatever. What exactly are we afraid of?”