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Books unbanned Seattle

SPL joins the fight against book banning

Youth across the nation gain access to SPL digital materials

Seattle Public Library (SPL) has joined the fight against book banning and other censorship and will provide young people across the country with access to digital versions of books that have been banned in their communities. As of last week, no matter where a teen lives in the United States, they can access the SPL’s collection of e-books and e-audiobooks.

Unbanned Books Initiative

SPL is only the second library system in the nation to join Brooklyn Public Library’s Books Unbanned initiative. Through the initiative, young people ages 13 to 26 can sign up for a free card from The Seattle Public Library which will allow them full access to the Library’s digital collection. The application takes only minutes to complete and is available at

“In the face of a growing national movement to censor what children and young adults read, we are proud to stand with Brooklyn Public Library in protecting intellectual freedom and the right to read,” said The Seattle Public Library’s Chief Librarian Tom Fay in a release announcing SPL’s participation. “This movement and trend must be countered by doing what public libraries are supposed to do – providing free and unrestricted access to information, ideas and diverse viewpoints.”

“For the last year, Brooklyn Public Library has provided access to books from all points of view to thousands of young people across the county. With an alarming number of book bans, we are pleased to welcome The Seattle Public Library to the Books Unbanned program so that together, with all of our might, we can fight for the enduring democratic principle of unfettered equal access to books and ideas from all perspectives,” said Linda E. Johnson, President and CEO, Brooklyn Public Library.

A record number of censorship demands

Books Unbanned helps counter the series of increasingly coordinated and effective efforts to remove books from public and school libraries across the nation. In March 2023, The American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom reported that 2022 saw a record number of demands to censor library books and resources. More than 2,500 unique titles were targeted for censorship, a 38% increase since in 2021.

Of the censorship attempts nationwide:

  • 58% targeted books and materials in school libraries, classroom libraries or school curricula;
  • 41% of book challenges targeted materials in public libraries;
  • The majority were written by or about members of the LGBTQIA+ community and people of color.”

Top censored youth books:

Preceeding Seattle Public Library’s announcement, the American Library Association highlighted the 13 most challenged books in the U.S., among other initiatives. Among the top 10 most censored books:

  • “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe
  • “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson
  • “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison
  • “Flamer “by Mike Curato
  • “Looking for Alaska” by John Green
  • “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky
  • “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison
  • “Out of Darkness” by Ashley Hope Perez
  • “A Court of Mist and Fury” by Sarah J. Maas
  • “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie

Writer Sherman Alexie grew up in Washington State.

“We hope that teens and young adults go to SPL’s BooksUnbanned webpate to sign up for a card and use it to explore and check out books about any topic they wish,” said Andrew Harbison, The Seattle Public Library’s Director of Library Programs and Services. “Every individual has the right to decide what materials they choose to read and to explore new viewpoints. And parents and caregivers have the right to guide their children to materials that best serve the needs of their families.”

Harbison also emphasized that the Books Unbanned card is for teens and young adults who live outside the Seattle area and are not eligible for a full-access card at The Seattle Public Library. Seattle residents can – and should – apply for a full-access Library card: Information and applications in multiple languages are available at the SPL webiste.

How to sign up for Books Unbanned

The Seattle Public Library’s Books Unbanned card will be good for one year and is designed to complement resources that exist for teens in their local communities. Youth who sign up can check out a maximum of 10 titles at a time and place a maximum of five holds.

The Books Unbanned card provides access to all titles in the Library’s OverDrive collection of more than 900,000 e-books and e-audiobooks. The Library has also created several lists highlighting books for young adults that have been frequently challenged, available on its Books Unbanned page, along with links to other materials for teens and young adults.

Cardholders can place holds and check out e-books and e-audiobooks on the Library’s online catalogue or through the very popular Libby app.

Effort funded by the Seattle Public Library Foundation

The Library’s Books Unbanned card is funded by private support through The Seattle Public Library Foundation. People interested in supporting the Books Unbanned initiative can contribute through the Foundation’s Equity & Access Fund.

“Equitable access to knowledge – for everyone – is an essential value of our library and our democracy,” said Foundation CEO Jonna Ward. “By funding the Books Unbanned card, we can help young people impacted by book bans or limits to access. The unprecedented threats to the right to read require an urgent response.”

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About the Author

Cheryl Murfin

Cheryl Murfin is managing editor at Seattle's Child. She is also a certified doula, lactation educator for and a certified AWA writing workshop facilitator at