PROSPECT HEIGHTS, Brooklyn (PIX11) – There’s something about picking up a good book and getting lost in it, but what happens when you can’t read a book you’re interested in at all because the book is banned?

Fritzi Bodenheimer, the spokesperson for the Brooklyn Public Library, says banned books are incredibly common.

“I think as long as there have been libraries, there have been challenges to books,” Bodenheimer said.

The American Library Association says library staff in every state faced an unprecedented number of attempts to ban books. It tracked almost 1,600 challenges or removals to library, school, and university materials and services in 2021 – that’s more than double from 2019.

“What’s been different in the last year or so, it’s been more coordinated,” Bodenheimer added. “It’s been more political in nature and that’s something we’re more concerned about.”

Most targeted books, the ALA says, were by or about Black or LGBTQ+ people.

Public libraries across the city are fighting this censorship by launching an initiative called Books UnBannedA free eCard, or digital library card, which normally costs $50 if you live out of state, is now free for anyone aged 13 to 21. 

“That will give all of those folks access to our e-books and audio books collection which are quite vast as well as our databases,” Bodenheimer said.

As part of the initiative, teenagers will also reach out to their peers in other states where books are being banned and send them recommendations along with resources to fight back.

“At Brooklyn Public Library, one of our greatest pleasures is being able to offer someone access to all the worlds wisdom, free access without judgement, its really the foundation, the promise of public libraries,” Bodenheimer said.

The eCard provides access to 350,000 e-books, 200,000 audio books, and over 100 databases and the card will be good for one year.