BOISE, Idaho — 2,000 miles away from Idaho, there is a group working to create more access to controversial books, books that continue to be at the center of controversy in Idaho.
“We have three libraries in New York City. We have the Brooklyn Public Library that covers just the borough of Brooklyn. All 2.7 million of us here in in Brooklyn,” Chief Librarian for the Brooklyn Public Library, Nick Higgins said.
The Brooklyn Public library serves a New York Community that has more people than the entire State of Idaho. The team at the library is not just concerned about their community, but also readers across the country who are seeing books banned from local libraries because of controversial content.
So, they created a program to help a demographic who they believe books are vital too, young adults.
“This is an intellectual freedom to read initiative by the Brooklyn Public Library. You know, we've been paying attention to a lot of the book challenges and bans that have been taking place, particularly over the last year in many places across the country," Higgins said. "We don't necessarily experience a whole lot of that here in Brooklyn, but we know that there are library patrons and library staff who are facing these and we wanted to figure out a way to step in and help, particularly for young people who are seeing, some books in their library collections that may represent them, but they're being taken off the shelves."
Brooklyn is offering a free eCard to any person aged 13 to 21 across the United States, so they can access their large collection of 500,000 digital books and resources and yes, controversial books being banned and discussed in Idaho are available for Idaho young adult to access.
“What more can we do to actually help out a young person in a community that might not have those kind of responsible adults or those resources to push back against people who might be a lot more vocal, let's say, or aggressive in promoting a particular ideology that goes against, maybe everything that a young person really feels to be true to themselves,” Higgins said.
So, why is the Brooklyn Public Library doing this? Higgins says it comes back to what a community library is, regardless of location.
“A public library represents all of us in a pluralistic society we exist with other people, with other ideas, other viewpoints and perspectives and that's what makes a healthy democracy -- not shutting down access to those points of view or silencing voices that we don't agree with, but expanding access to those voices and having conversations and ideas that we agree with and ideas that we don't agree with,” Higgins said.
More than 4,000 eCards have been distributed to young adults across the country, including here in Idaho. One Idahoan wrote to the library in Brooklyn about their concerns about one political lens ruling out valuable books.
It may be a simple concept, but Higgins explains that removing content that young adults are looking to connect with, especially minority experiences, sends a powerful message about the communities’ view of them.
“Really, it really puts everything into context. There are kids out there who have nowhere else to turn and they're looking for any help that they can get from wherever they can find it,” Higgins said. “I mean, it's hard enough to be a teenager, but it becomes a lot harder when you feel like your entire community is trying to tell you that your identity doesn't matter.”
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