Libraries have become centers of controversy over the last few months. While some municipalities and school districts believe that young people should not be viewing certain titles, the Seattle Public Library believes that access to those books should be granted, and they're part of a growing movement.
"We were founded in this country, not just as individual libraries, but as a national effort to make sure that we have an informed citizenry, and that is no less critical today," said Seattle Public Library Head Librarian Tom Fay.
He says the library is now offering free access to their collection of e-books to young people across the nation in direct response to the increase of book bans across the country.
Anyone ages 13-26 living in the U.S. outside of Washington's King County can apply for a free library e-card to access Seattle's 215,000 unique titles and 700,000 e-books for one year.
SEE MORE: Inside the movement to ban books at libraries and in schools
Seattle was inspired by the Brooklyn Public Library, who began their Books Unbanned initiative last year, making them the first to offer their collection of online resources, e-books and audio books for free to young adults nationwide.
Fay says around 7,000 young people have taken advantage of the Brooklyn program. A week after Seattle opened up access, 1,400 young people have taken advantage of its program.
"When you think about the books that are banned, they range from the classics — To Kill a Mockingbird — to The Hunger Games, to Gender Queer," said Fay. "When you think about all of these, they're all opportunities for growth. Each one of those stories is actually speaking to someone and it's often someone's story and it's an important piece to get out there."
SEE MORE: Book censoring attempts doubled in 2022
Last year, an Oklahoma teacher was removed from class, then resigned after sharing the QR code to Brooklyn's Books Unbanned to her class, following new state restrictions around books.
Fay says while they haven't received any pushback from making access available nationally, the library is preparing for it.
"We respect parents' rights to help make those decisions for their children," he said. "What you may not think appropriate for your child, I might. I don't want to take something away from you. And, really, what we wanna make sure is no one's taking something else away from someone else in the community or across the country."
He says he's been talking to other libraries across the country interested in providing similar access and hopes others, who can, continue to do the same.
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