The New York Public Library continues to take a stand against the increasingly-common issue of restricting access to books that challenge worldviews and provide diverse perspectives at public and school libraries.
In observation of Banned Books Week 2022 (Sept 18-24), the Library will celebrate the legacy of renowned author and NYPL trustee Toni Morrison (1931-2019) by providing unlimited digital access to her award-winning novels Beloved and The Bluest Eye without holds from September 15 to October 31, 2022.
“At the core of the Library is our dedication to providing open access to knowledge for all without barriers,” said Anthony W. Marx, President of The New York Public Library. “Book banning closes the doors to new experiences, diverse and rich worldviews, and the ability to discover and challenge ideas. By making these works accessible, we are honoring Toni Morrison’s legacy in allowing people to see themselves, history, and our world in challenging, complex and uncensored ways.”
This initiative, which marks Banned Books Week at the Library, will also include reading recommendations that challenge readers to explore new perspectives and complex themes and public programming dedicated to Toni Morrison’s illustrious storytelling and furthering her advocacy against censorship.
The initiative includes:
- Unlimited SimplyE access to Beloved and The Bluest Eye from Sept 15th – October 31 on NYPL’s e-reader app, SimplyE.
- Giveaways of Beloved, Bluest Eye, and other commonly challenged and banned books beginning September 19 including challenged classics, picture books, children & young adult books, and adult books.
- Public Programming, highlights include:
- 9/21 LIVE from NYPL in partnership with PEN America: Looking at the history of book bannings from Anthony Comstock to Toni Morrison and beyond.
- 9/21 This Book Is Banned – How book bans impact you, our society, and democracy: Photographer Kimberly Butler presents images from her collection entitled “Censored” while in conversation with professional librarians on how book bans impact society.
- 9/22 Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in partnership with LIVE from NYPL: Celebrating Beloved with readings, music, and conversation.
- Banned Books Reading List – Lists for various age groups curated by expert librarians featuring both classically challenged titles and books that are being challenged currently.
- Book discussions, storytimes, and programs for all ages hosted at branches.
See the full list of events, programming, and reading recommendations here.
According to the American Library Association, there have been significant increases in efforts to censor library collections with an all-time high within the past few years. A lifelong advocate of libraries and against censorship, Morrison has frequently addressed the surges of outcry banning books that champion marginalized voices or contain complicated subject matter.
“The thought [of book banning] that leads me to contemplate with dread the erasure of other voices, of unwritten novels, poems whispered or swallowed for fear of being overheard by the wrong people, outlawed languages flourishing underground, essayists’ questions challenging authority never being posed, unstaged plays, canceled films – that thought is a nightmare. As though a whole universe is being described in invisible ink,” wrote Morrison in Burn This Book, a collection of essays on censorship.
Set in the American Reconstruction era and Great Depression respectively, Beloved and The Bluest Eye are regarded as masterful literature exploring the Black experience and history through fantastical narrative. Both books have been subject to attempts nationwide to keep them off school and library shelves due to Morrison’s unflinching exposition of racism, violence, abuse, and sexuality.
Banned Books Week aligns with long-standing efforts across NYPL and at libraries across the country to speak out against censorship and stand up for open access to ideas, information, and challenging worldviews. Earlier this year, the Library successfully launched Books for All and the Banned Books Challenge to call attention to the issue and, secondarily, generate checkouts and reading.
Despite frequent calls to ban her books in schools and libraries, Morrison, who wrote 11 novels, has received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the Nobel Prize in Literature, the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
While spending five decades teaching, editing, supporting up-and-coming writers, and publishing plays, novels, children’s titles, essays, and a libretto, Morrison was named a Library Lion in 1982, joined the NYPL board in 1985, and was named a Life Trustee for the Library in 2006.
The New York Public Library
For over 125 years, The New York Public Library has been a free provider of education and information for the people of New York and beyond.
With 92 locations—including research and branch libraries—throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, the Library offers free materials, computer access, classes, exhibitions, programming and more to everyone from toddlers to scholars, and has seen record numbers of attendance and circulation in recent years.
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