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Seattle Public Library launches program to allow teens to access banned books

The new privately funded program allows teens from across the country to access books through their online system. It is the second library in the nation to do this.

SEATTLE — The Seattle Public Library is now the second library in the nation to give teens across the country access to the library's online books. 

They are doing this through the “Books Unbanned” program they launched last week in response to book bans at schools and libraries in other parts of the country. The library was able to do this through private funding

“It’s concerning for us as a public library because intellectual freedom and access are really core principles for us,” said Andrew Harbison, the director of Library Programs and Services at the Seattle Public Library. “We want to ensure that there is open and free access to information and ideas.”

The “Books Unbanned” program allows teens to sign up for a free membership that gives them access to online books and audiobooks. In just the first week, the Seattle Public Library had more than 1,500 teens sign up for the program and had nearly 1,200 items checked out.

“We really, really want to defend intellectual freedom and access, and thought this was a great way to do that,” said Harbison

They are the second library in the nation to do this. They shaped their program after the one at the Brooklyn Public Library in New York.

“Over the last several months, we started thinking about it and started talking to the Brooklyn Public Library team and worked together to launch our own e-card and version of Books Unbanned.”

Over at the King County Library System, they are also concerned by book bans happening in other areas of the country.

“Honestly, I never thought at this point in my career I'd be dealing with this now,” said King County Public Library System Executive Director Lisa Rosenblum.

Rosenblum actually worked at the Brooklyn Public Library before coming to King County, although their “Books Unbanned” program was created after she left.

Rosenblum said the King County Public Library System is able to share online access with people in other areas of Washington and thinks it is wonderful that libraries like the Brooklyn Public Library and Seattle Public Library are expanding access to other areas of the country. She said anytime access to reading materials can be increased, it is a positive thing.

“I just hope people realize that exposure to different people and ideas strengthens us all,” said Rosenblum.

This is a hope shared by those at the Seattle Public Library, who are a week into their mission to unban books.

“We're really excited about the opportunity to expand access to these books, and titles, and authors, and lots of new ideas and information for teens and young adults to explore,” said Harbison.

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