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Book Sanctuaries

In response to blatant attacks on freedom of expression and individuals' right to read, public libraries across North America are declaring themselves and their cities "Book Sanctuaries."

From July 2022 to June 2023, PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans found 3,362 instances of individual books banned, affecting 1,557 unique titles. This represents an increase of 33% from the 2021-22 school year.

In response to these blatant attacks on freedom of expression and individuals' right to read, public libraries across North America are declaring themselves and their cities "Book Sanctuaries."

This movement began in September 2022 when the City of Chicago and the Chicago Public Library declared themselves a space for endangered stories and called for others to do the same. CPL's calls for established sanctuaries to do at least one of the following:

  • Collect and protect endangered books
  • Make those books broadly accessible
  • Host book talks and events, including sparking conversations about diverse characters and stories
  • Educate others on the history of book banning and burning

The following are examples of ULC members that have committed to being Book Sanctuaries in their communities, protecting endangered books and keeping their ideas safe.

Click the dropdown to learn more about each library's program.

Book Sanctuary Libraries

Chicago Public Library (IL)

Established in September 2022, the city of Chicago and Chicago Public Library declared themselves "Book Sanctuaries."

Book Sanctuaries are established across CPL's 81 library branches and 71 neighborhoods.

The CPL has a blueprint available for those who are interested in fighting against censorship and starting their own Book Sanctuary. If you’re interested, visit

Learn more about Chicago's Book Sanctuary program.


Arlington Public Library (VA)

On September 26, 2023, the Arlington County Board approved a resolution to declare Arlington Public Library a Book Sanctuary. Arlington Public Library believes in protecting banned and challenged books, giving patrons the freedom to access books without fear of suppression.

“Books are transformational. They allow us to explore a world that we never thought could be explored,” said Library Director Diane Kresh. “Becoming a book sanctuary allows our community to explore different thoughts and challenge us. Arlington Public Library believes that the library allows protection and security for ideas to represent all.”

Learn more about Arlington Public Library’s Book Sanctuary.


Photography of Arlington Public Library staff, County Manager, Mark Schwartz, and County Board Members (L-R) Matt de Ferranti, Tannia Talento, Chair Christian Dorsey, Takis Karantonis, and Vice-Chair Libby Garvey.

Broward County Library (FL)

In April 2023, Broward County Library announced the opening of Book Sanctuaries in each of its 36 branches "in celebration of the joy of reading and intellectual freedom."

"As Director of Broward County Library, a vital part of my mission is to ensure that the freedom to read is not compromised," said Allison Grubbs. "The right to think, speak and learn freely are foundational values in our democracy and in our libraries."

Broward County Library's launch coincided with National Library Week in April 2023. Accompanying the sanctuary displays, limited edition "I Read Banned Books" library cards were available at all branches, along with free "I Read Banned Books" buttons, proclaiming a passion for the freedom to read, collect, protect and lend endangered books.

Learn more about Broward County Library's Book Sanctuaries.


Calgary Public Library (AB)

Launched during Freedom to Read Week in February 2023, Calgary Public Library created its Book Sanctuary traveling exhibit to "raise awareness around the freedom to read and promote the right to access books that have been challenged or banned."

“All libraries act as protected spaces for information and knowledge. By creating a Book Sanctuary, we hope to demonstrate support for libraries across North America and let our community know that challenges to intellectual freedom are ongoing,” said Sarah Meilleur, CEO at Calgary Public Library.

All materials that accompanied the traveling exhibit are available in Calgary Public Library's "Freedom to Read" collection.

Learn more about Calgary's Book Sanctuary.


Dayton Metro Library (OH)

In June 2023, the Dayton Metro Library board of directors declared the library system a Book Sanctuary, joining the thousands of other libraries across the United States and Canada that are taking steps to collect and protect endangered books.

“As your public library, we are standing firm and saying that we don’t ban books,” said Jeffrey Trzeciak, Executive Director of Dayton Metro Library.

As part of being a book sanctuary, the library will actively purchase titles that have been banned in other locations, and protect those materials from censorship, according to the library board’s resolution. The library also provides book talks, clubs, and programs on diverse themes and characters, and resources on the history of book banning and the importance of protecting intellectual freedom.

Learn more about Dayton Metro Library's Book Sanctuary.


Ferguson Library (CT)

In January 2023, the Ferguson Library Board of Trustees voted to designate the library as a Book Sanctuary. In a show of commitment to this work, Stamford Mayor Caroline Simmons took the additional step to declare the city of Stamford, Connecticut a Book Sanctuary city.

In the announcement, Ferguson Library's CEO Alice Knapp wrote: "The Ferguson Library is committed to collecting and protecting endangered books; making them accessible to the public; hosting book talks, events and conversations about diverse characters and stories; and educating others on the history of book banning and burning. This has always been part of our mission, but in this era of rising book censorship and attacks on freedom of speech, this work takes on new, vital importance."

Learn more about Ferguson Library's Book Sanctuary.


Harris County Public Library (TX)

In September 2023, the Harris County Commissioners Court passed a resolution aimed at protecting Texans’ freedom to read as they choose. The resolution designates Harris County Public Library (HCPL) as a book sanctuary. In this, the library joins over 2,700 organizations and institutions nationwide that have committed to safeguarding Americans' right to read, speak, and think for themselves as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

"I think it's very important for the library to be able to provide content and information to everyone, especially in a community that is as diverse as Harris County," says HCPL Executive Director Edward Melton, “The thing about books is that they are crucial not only as mirrors that reflect our own experiences but also as windows into the experiences of others. The library must be able to provide those opportunities for all people."

The Book Sanctuary Resolution dovetails with HCPL’s Library for All initiative which seeks to address the needs of underrepresented and underserved communities through library policies, services, and programs with a particular focus on the library’s commitment to fight efforts to ban books that represent those communities.


Hoboken Public Library (NJ)

The Hoboken City Council voted unanimously in September of 2023 in support of designating Hoboken as a sanctuary city for books, meaning it will not ban or remove any books from the city’s library shelves. It is the first city in New Jersey to be given this designation. Hoboken Public Library declared itself a Book Sanctuary earlier on that summer.

Jennie Pu, the city’s library director, said, “We don’t segregate these books. We protect them, but we integrate them with the rest of our collection. Again, it’s just information, we want people to have access to these stories.” Currently on display in the Hoboken Public Library is a collection of banned books that have been challenged across the country.

Hoboken Book Sanctuary

Live Oak Public Libraries (GA)

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson's April 11th Proclamation recognized National Library Week 2024 (April 7 – 13) and declared the City of Savannah a Book Sanctuary City, confirming its opposition to book censorship in any form. The Proclamation applauded Live Oak Public Libraries’ adoption of the Library Bill of Rights and support of the freedom to read.

“It is an honor for LOPL to be recognized for its commitment to the freedom for all people to read and awesome to serve a city that is the first in Georgia to make this powerful proclamation,” LOPL Executive Director Lola Shelton-Council said.

Watch the Official Proclamation.


Oak Park Public Library (IL)

In June 2023, the Village of Oak Park Board of Trustees approved a resolution to declare the Village of Oak Park a Book Sanctuary Community.

Oak Park Public Library is a longtime supporter of democracy, intellectual freedom, and reading diverse and inclusive books. With this resolution, the Village Board affirmed that Oak Park as a community upholds these same values. This local resolution follows a new state law that Gov. JB Pritzker signed in early June 2023 that is meant to discourage state libraries from removing books because of personal, political, or religious reasons.

Learn more about Oak Park Public Library's Book Sanctuary.


Ottawa Public Library (ON)

Launched during Freedom to Read Week in February 2024, Ottawa Public Library (OPL) became a Book Sanctuary to raise awareness around the freedom to read and promote the right to access books that have been challenged or banned.

Chief Librarian and CEO of OPL Sonia Bebbington emphasized the importance of the public library in protecting intellectual freedom. “OPL welcomes respectful, open, and transparent discussions about intellectual freedom, and aims to ensure a balance of perspectives in its collections. We invite clients to explore, question, and engage with the ideas represented in the OPL Book Sanctuary during Freedom to Read Week, and every day.”

Learn more about Ottawa's Book Sanctuary.


Toronto Public Library (ON)

During Freedom to Read Week in February 2023, Toronto Public Library announced it was joining the Book Sanctuary movement by offering a collection of 50 adult, teen and children's books that have come under scrutiny and/or been removed from a public library or school.

The Book Sanctuary collection at TPL is available for browsing and borrowing in the library's branches and online. A permanent Book Sanctuary Reference Collection is available on display at the Toronto Reference Library.

Learn more about Toronto's Book Sanctuary Collection.


Books Unbanned

Along with Book Sanctuaries, the Books Unbanned program — founded by the Brooklyn Public Library in April of 2022 — aims to provide free access to banned and challenged books. Books Unbanned was designed in response to an increasingly coordinated and effective effort to remove books tackling a wide range of topics from library shelves. Since its creation, the Brooklyn Public Library has partnered with more urban public library systems to offer the program in different areas. Learn more below.

Libraries Participating in Books Unbanned

Brooklyn Public Library (N.Y.)

Launched in April 2022, Brooklyn Public Library's "Books Unbanned" initiative is a direct response to an "increasingly coordinated and effective effort to remove books tackling a wide range of topics from library shelves."

The Books Unbanned initiative invites individuals ages 13-21 to apply for a free BPL eCard that provides access to the library's full ebook collection. Interested individuals can email to get an eCard.

Learn more about Books Unbanned.


Boston Public Library (Mass.)

In late September 2023, Boston Public Library became the third library to join the Books Unbanned initiative. The Boston Books Unbanned program offers free access to people aged 13 to 26 anywhere in the United States. It is described as an effort to "counter the series of increasingly coordinated and effective efforts to remove books from public and school libraries across the nation."

“As we head into Banned Books Week, an annual event that highlights the value of free and open access to information, we are proud to stand with the Brooklyn Public Library and Seattle Public Library to uphold intellectual freedom and the right to read,” said BPL President David Leonard. “By joining this initiative, we embrace the opportunity to champion the principle of access for individuals across the nation who face limitations in reaching content and are unable to advocate for themselves.


LA County Library (Calif.)

In honor of Banned Books Week 2023, LA County Library officially launched its Books Unbanned digital card for teens ages 13 – 18 throughout the state. The card allows teens to borrow up to 5 digital titles at a time and is good for one year.

The digital card was developed in response to a June 2023 motion from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, authored by Supervisors Lindsey P. Horvath and Janice Hahn, which directed the Library to expand the availability of library cards to teens statewide in an effort to support young people without access to certain banned books, and to determine how to fund the purchase of additional eBook and audiobook copies of frequently banned titles.

“Like all public libraries, LA County Library is committed to intellectual freedom, and that means providing access to books and information for all,” said Library Director, Skye Patrick. “For young readers who are still learning who they are and finding their way in the world, access to literature written by and about marginalized individuals and groups is essential to their exploration of different perspectives, critical thinking, cultural heritage, and overall education. We are happy to expand our digital offerings to teens across California, and to partner with our colleagues at Brooklyn Public Library and Seattle Public Library on their well-established Books Unbanned initiative.”


San Diego Public Library (Calif.)

The San Diego Public Library and Library Foundation SD joined Books Unbanned in late September 2023, directly preceding Banned Books Week 2023. Through the program, the library is offering anyone aged 12-26 in the US a free Unbanned books card. With the card, up to three books form the library’s digital collection of banned or restricted books and audiobooks can be checked out at any time.

“Libraries are the great equalizers. Anyone can visit a library to learn something new and expand their understanding of the world beyond their own experiences,” said Misty Jones, San Diego Public Library Director. “The library must be where diverse materials representing our communities are available and where all ideas can be presented and discussed. Book bans and challenges threaten our freedom to read and the library’s role as an open and welcoming space.”


Seattle Public Library (Wash.)

The Seattle Public Library joined Brooklyn Public Library’s Books Unbanned initiative to fight censorship and book banning in April of 2023. Youth ages 13 to 26 who live in the United States can sign up for a free card from The Seattle Public Library that allows them full access to the Library’s collection of e-books and e-audiobooks.

“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. “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.”

The Seattle Public Library’s Books Unbanned card is 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 Library’s Books Unbanned card is funded by private support through The Seattle Public Library Foundation.