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Unbanning Books: LJ’s 2023 Librarians of the Year

Library Journal: “Brooklyn Public Library’s Nick Higgins, Amy Mikel, Karen Keys, Jackson Gomes, and Leigh Hurwitz have been named LJ’s 2023 Librarians of the Year for their work on Books Unbanned, providing free ebook access to teens and young adults nationwide to help defy rising book challenges across the country. In 2022 Brooklyn Public Library’s Books Unbanned Team began providing free ebook access to teens and young adults nationwide, defying rising book challenges across the count. In the past year, book challenges became part of the national discourse. Efforts to censor what materials U.S. kids, teens, and young adults can access—primarily content about race and LGBTQIA+ issues—are increasing, often in the places those resources are needed most. From January to August 2022, the American Library Association (ALA) logged 681 attempts to ban or restrict access to 1,651 unique titles—the highest number of challenges since ALA began tracking them. From July 2021 to June 2022, the freedom of expression nonprofit PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans listed 2,532 instances of individual books being banned, affecting 1,648 titles. It has become increasingly clear to many that these censorship efforts go beyond complaints from individual concerned parents. Libraries and classrooms have become the targets of coordinated political campaigns frequently led and/or funded by right-wing activists. As a large and well-resourced institution in the relatively liberal jurisdiction of New York City, Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) is well positioned to ensure access to the full range of books it deems valuable for its community of readers. The library also provides free digital cards to New York State residents, and previously offered out-of-state cards for a fee. But several staff members, as well as President and CEO Linda E. Johnson, felt that BPL could—and should—do more for those beyond the borough’s borders.”

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