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Two California Library Systems Join in Granting Free Access to Banned Books for Young Readers

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Just in time for Banned Books Week (October 1-7), two California library systems — San Diego Public Library and LA County Library — have joined the Books Unbanned initiative. In 2021, the Brooklyn Public Library started the initiative as a way to counteract the deluge in book banning in schools across the country.

Though this year has seen a 33% rise in book bans, opposition to book bans have also increased. The San Diego and LA County library systems join not only Brooklyn Public Library, but also the Seattle and Boston public library systems in the Books Unbanned initiative.

Through the program, the San Diego Public Library — in partnership with the Library Foundation SD — is offering anyone aged 12-26 in the US a free Unbanned books card. With the card, up to three books form the library’s digital collection of banned or restricted books and audiobooks can be checked out at any time.

The LA County Library’s initiative offers free access to the library’s entire digital book and audiobook collection to teenagers aged 13-18 in California.

Officials at both library systems cite the importance of young people having access to books that reflect their community’s diversity as a main reason for participating in the initiative.

“Libraries are the great equalizers. Anyone can visit a library to learn something new and expand their understanding of the world beyond their own experiences,” said Misty Jones, San Diego Public Library Director. “The library must be where diverse materials representing our communities are available and where all ideas can be presented and discussed. Book bans and challenges threaten our freedom to read and the library’s role as an open and welcoming space.”

LA County Library supervisor Janice Hahn said, “Banning books doesn’t protect children. 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.”

The registration for San Diego Public Library’s program is here, and LA County Library’s is here.

Find more news and stories of interest from the book world in Breaking in Books.