September 28, 2023
LA County Library Joins National Books Unbanned Initiative
Digital Library Card for Teens Throughout California Launches
in Celebration of Banned Books Week
In honor of Banned Books Week (October 1 – 7, 2023), LA County Library is officially launching its Books Unbanned digital card for teens ages 13 – 18 throughout the state. The card allows teens to borrow up to 5 digital titles at a time and is good for one year.
The digital card was developed in response to a June 2023 motion from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, authored by Supervisors Lindsey P. Horvath and Janice Hahn, which directed the Library to expand the availability of library cards to teens statewide in an effort to support young people without access to certain banned books, and to determine how to fund the purchase of additional eBook and audiobook copies of frequently banned titles.
“Here in LA County, we are celebrating Books Unbanned Week by connecting teens to a full range of literature to help them explore their identities and our shared history,” said Supervisor Lindsey P. Horvath. “I hope that young people across our state, especially those living in counties restricting access to books and knowledge, tap into LA County’s free digital library card program because we value their right to read.”
“Banning books doesn’t protect children,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “It walls them off from ideas, diversity, and opportunities to learn and grow. In LA County we uphold both freedom of speech and the freedom to read, and through the LA County Library system, we can help counteract the impact of book bans across the state and preserve access to these important stories.”
LA County Library has partnered with Brooklyn Public Library and Seattle Public Library to join the Books Unbanned initiative, a response to an increasingly coordinated and effective effort to remove books tackling a wide range of topics from library shelves. Boston Public Library and San Diego Public Library are also joining Books Unbanned. All five library systems will work as crucial partners in defending and expanding the freedom to read by providing free, unrestricted access to their materials outside of their jurisdiction to fight for the rights of teens nationwide to read what they like, discover themselves, and form their own opinions.
“Like all public libraries, LA County Library is committed to intellectual freedom, and that means providing access to books and information for all,” said Library Director, Skye Patrick. “For young readers who are still learning who they are and finding their way in the world, access to literature written by and about marginalized individuals and groups is essential to their exploration of different perspectives, critical thinking, cultural heritage, and overall education. We are happy to expand our digital offerings to teens across California, and to partner with our colleagues at Brooklyn Public Library and Seattle Public Library on their well-established Books Unbanned initiative.”
“I can’t think of a better way to mark Banned Books Week than to welcome our friends from LA to join us in the fight for the freedom to read,” said Linda E. Johnson, President and CEO, Brooklyn Public Library. “Together we will guarantee that young people across the country have access to books from all points of view so they might imagine a more just and equitable future for us all.”
“We are thrilled LA County Library is joining Books Unbanned and protecting the right of young people to read and think for themselves,” said Tom Fay, Chief Librarian for The Seattle Public Library, which launched its Books Unbanned program in April of 2023. “In my nearly 40-year career in libraries, I have never seen so many concentrated and well-coordinated efforts to suppress ideas and limit the intellectual freedom of American citizens, especially for young people. It’s been our hope that other libraries in the U.S. will join this urgently needed effort to defend the freedom to read and expand access to ideas and voices.”
Banned Books Week (October 1 – 7, 2023) is an initiative of the American Library Association (ALA) to raise awareness of the increases in book challenges. In 2022, the ALA documented 1,269 demands to censor library books and resources, the highest number of attempted book bans since ALA began compiling data about censorship in libraries more than 20 years ago, and nearly double the 729 book challenges reported in 2021. And 2023 preliminary data shows a 20% increase from the same reporting period last year. Most targeted books were for a teen audience and were by or about Black or LGBTQIA+ persons. ALA’s Freedom to Read statement helped to inspire the Books Unbanned initiative.
The card’s October launch also aligns with LGBT History Month, which is very fitting, as many banned titles feature LGBTQIA+ authors and/or characters, are often written for teen audiences.
LA County Library’s digital Books Unbanned card provides access to the Library’s full eBook and audiobook collection via Libby, by OverDrive, which can be used on any computer or mobile device. Customers can visit LACountyLibrary.org/Books-Unbanned to learn more and sign up for a card.
Funding for the Books Unbanned card and collection is provided by LA County Library Foundation, which is collecting private donations to expand LA County Library’s titles, especially those which are most commonly banned. Anyone interested in donating to the project can do so at LACoLibraryFoundation.org/Donate-Books-Unbanned.
“We’re delighted to support the Library and join four other stellar systems to give teens in California access to a spectrum of information and ideas through the Library’s digital collection,” said Andrea Carroll, Executive Director of LA County Library Foundation. “People love their Library and want to support the freedom to read, learn, and explore. I’m excited to give individuals, foundations, and corporate citizens—in LA County and beyond—the opportunity to join LA County Library Foundation in helping fund Books Unbanned and promote the crucial role that libraries play in our democratic society.”
About LA County Library
Founded in 1912, LA County Library is one of the largest and most innovative library systems in the US. It offers free public resources including books, music, multimedia materials, computer and internet access, and educational and recreational services to 3.4 million residents across 3,000 square miles through its 85 community libraries, institutional library, and mobile fleet of 15 vehicles, including Bookmobiles, 6 MākMō (maker mobiles), 3 early literacy vehicles, and 2 mobile outreach vehicles. LA County Library is dedicated to reducing barriers and increasing access to and equity of public services for all. To learn more, visit LACountyLibrary.org and follow @LACountyLibrary on Facebook, X, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube.
About LA County Library Foundation
LA County Library Foundation raises funds and creates partnerships to support LA County Library and the millions of children, teens, and adults whose lives and communities the Library enriches with free resources. The Library is a dynamic and unifying force in Los Angeles County, with LA County Library Foundation a vital partner. Public dollars don’t cover all the Library’s costs for services it provides. The Library Foundation works to bridge that funding gap – with gifts from private sources, including corporations, foundations, and individuals – and builds deep-rooted community support for the Library and its role as a civic cornerstone. Donations to LA County Library Foundation are investments in literacy and lifelong learning, a stronger workforce, creativity, and a more inclusive and just community.
About Brooklyn Public Library
Brooklyn Public Library is one of the nation’s largest library systems and among New York City’s most democratic institutions. As a leader in developing modern 21st-century libraries, BPL provides resources to support personal advancement, foster civic literacy, and strengthen the fabric of community among the more than 2.7 million individuals who call Brooklyn home. BPL provides nearly 60,000 free programs a year with writers, thinkers, artists, and educators—from around the corner and around the world. And BPL gives patrons millions of opportunities to enjoy one of life’s greatest satisfactions: the joy of a good book. Since April of 2022, 7,000 teens from all 50 states have signed up for BPL’s National Teen eCard, and have had 156,000 checkouts.
About Seattle Public Library
Located in one of just two UNESCO Cities of Literature in the U.S., The Seattle Public Library believes that the power of knowledge improves people’s lives. We promote literacy and a love of reading as we bring people, information and ideas together to enrich lives and build community. We support intellectual freedom and uphold the right of all people to freely and confidentially access information as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Contact the Library’s Ask Us service by phone at 206-386-4636 or by email or chat at www.spl.org/Ask. Staff are ready to answer questions and direct you to helpful resources and information.