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NYPL will be launching its longest anti-censorship campaign in its history

It’ll host a teen book club and writing contest, too.

Shaye Weaver
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Shaye Weaver
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The New York Public Library is making its biggest stand against banning books this week.

“Books for All,” a campaign it’s hosting with the American Library Association (ALA) between October 1 and 7, will provide unlimited access to select young adult titles that have been the subject of bans and/or challenges to anyone via the Library’s SimplyE app!

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You can find a list of banned books available at NYPL here.

There will be a book club launching in tandem with the campaign, kicking off with Mark Oshiro’s Each of Us a Desert. The novel, written by someone who uses gender-neutral pronouns, follows two girls on their journey in the desert, where they find home, face dangers together and fall in love. It also addresses racism.

The book will be available for download to anyone, regardless of whether or not they have a NYPL library card, on October 2 through November 30. Thanks to a partnership with Macmillan Publishers, there will be unlimited access to the book, which means no wait times, through the Library’s SimplyE app. You can also pick up a physical copy of the book at branches for NYPL patrons. Select branches will also host in-person book clubs. A new book title will be announced every two months.

For those who enjoy writing, there’s a national teen writing contest based around the question “What does the freedom to read mean to you?” that is now open for applicants between ages 13 and 19. Winners will be published in a special edition of NYPL’s Teen Voices magazine in spring 2024 and the grand prize winner will receive a $500 cash prize. Twenty other essay writers will receive a $250 prize.

According to the ALA, censorship efforts are increasingly being directed at public libraries, which accounted for 49% of documented challenges, up from 16% during the same reporting period in 2022. There were a whopping 695 book challenges during just the first eight months of this year, which is a 20% from the same period last year.

“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 free people have the right to choose for themselves,” said NYPL President Anthony W. Marx. “Since their founding, public libraries have combated the forces of ignorance and hate by making information and knowledge freely available to all. 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. We welcome everyone to read along and join us.”

This is the library’s latest banned books campaign—in April 2022, it held its first “Books for All” and a Banned Books Challenge in June 2022, which was done in collaboration with Brooklyn and Queens Public Libraries.

Here’s what else is planned at NYPL for “Books For All”:


Poetics of the Archive: An Evening with Nikky Finney and Robin Coste Lewis
September 28 at 7pm, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

National Book Award winners Nikky Finney and Robin Coste Lewis, will be joined by
National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson in conversation on the careful work of
communal archives and the power of Black stories amidst continued book banning.

TeenLIVE x Banned Books Week: Mark Oshiro
October 3 at 11am, at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

Bestselling author, and the first author to be featured in the NYPL Teen Banned Book Club, Mark Oshiro will discuss their books, censorship, and why it's crucial for young people to have the opportunity to
see themselves represented in the books they read.

Loud and Proud: Latinx Representation and Empowerment Against Censorship at
Bronx Library Center
October 3 at 6:30om at the Bronx Library Center

Featured panelists—Emanuel Xavier, Melissa Rivero, Adriana Herrera — who have all
grappled with issues of censorship in writing discuss the current climate of book bans
and challenges, as well as the importance and joy of self-expression, moderated by
Bronx-based author and activist Charles Rice-González.

#FreedomToRead Digital Day of Action:

A New York City-wide, one day digital activation on October 4 at 10am in which New York City’s three public libraries stand together to support the #FreedomToRead and encourage supporters and patrons to stand against book bans on social media. For more information, please visit nypl.org/freedomtoread.

● “Banned: Censorship and Free Expression in America,”
October 5 at 7pm, at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

A LIVE From NYPL partnership with The Atlantic featuring a conversation with authors Ayad Akhtar and Imani Perry on how attempts to silence artists threaten democracy, and what we can do to fight back.

Freedom to Read: A Conversation about Censorship and a Banned Books Exhibit
by Photographer Kimberly Butler
October 6, 6pm at Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library

Photographer Kimberly Butler presents images from her latest collection inspired by banned books, and hear from New York City public library leaders Rosa Caballero-Li (New York Public Library), Nick Buron (Queens Public Library), and Nick Higgins Brooklyn Public Library) discuss the role of public libraries in providing free and open access to information while and supporting a democratic society’s right to explore a wide range of viewpoints. The conversation will be moderated by WNYC’s Brooke Gladstone.

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