By Audrey Kemp, LA Reporter

July 20, 2023 | 3 min read

Leveraging geo-targeting technology, the new digital library makes available titles that continue to disappear from libraries and schools across America.

The 2022 to 2023 school year has been marked by an escalation of book bans and censorship in classrooms and school libraries across the United States.

In the first half of 2023, 30% of banned titles were books about race, racism or feature characters of color, while 26% have LGBTQ+ characters or themes, per Pen America’s Index of School Book Bans.

To ensure nationwide and permanent access to banned books, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) today launched The Banned Book Club. This new digital library creates free e-books of banned titles for readers in areas across the United States where titles have been banned.

The Banned Book Club works by utilizing GPS-based geo-targeting. When a reader is within an area whose library has been affected by book banning, they can visit to see the exact titles that have been banned. Then, they can download the Palace e-reader app, choose ‘Banned Book Club’ as their library, obtain a free virtual library card and download those books for free on any handheld device.

“At DPLA, our mission is to ensure access to knowledge for all and we believe in the power of technology to further that access,” John S. Bracken, executive director of Digital Public Library of America, said in a statement shared with The Drum. “Today, book bans are one of the greatest threats to our freedom, and we have created The Banned Book Club to leverage the dual powers of libraries and digital technology to ensure that every American can access the books they want to read.”

The effort comes as various states have passed censorship laws to ban books on sexual and racial identity in recent years. In 2021, Oklahoma introduced a bill that would prohibit public school libraries from keeping books that focus on sexual activity, sexual identity or gender identity. In Tennessee, the McMinn County Board of Education voted to remove the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel Maus from an eighth-grade module on the Holocaust. This school year, instances of book bans are most prevalent in Texas, Florida, Missouri, Utah and South Carolina.

As former president Barack Obama said in an open letter to the librarians of America on Monday: “In any democracy, the free exchange of ideas is an important part of making sure that citizens are informed, engaged and feel like their perspectives matter ... Today, some of the books that shaped my life – and the lives of so many others – are being challenged by people who disagree with certain ideas or perspectives.”

DPLA’s Banned Book Club was created in partnership with creative agency FCB (Foote, Cone & Belding) Chicago and is supported by Current Global; the virtual library is powered by The Palace Project, a non-profit committed to helping digitize all library collections.

For more, sign up for The Drum’s daily newsletters here.

Creative FCB FCB Chicago

More from Creative

View all