This free, fully digital library is giving access to banned LGBTQ+ books

Books containing any trace of LGBTQ+ subject matter have become the focus of the latest moral panic, with conservatives leading the effort to purge library shelves across the nation. But one nonprofit library is fighting book bans by giving anyone in the country free digital access to queer books.

The Queer Liberation Library (QLL, pronounced “quill”) contains hundreds of LGBTQ+ titles in ebook and audiobook form. After applying for a membership, members can check out frequently banned titles like George M Johnson’s All Boys Aren’t Blue and Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer. The collection also includes curated lists of staff picks, popular genres like fantasy and sci-fi, classical literature, and newer favorites like Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue and Torrey Peters’ Detransition Baby.

“Whoever finds use from this platform for whatever reason – whether that is for vital information they need, or if it is to read a fun little romp about two men kissing – whatever that is, we want to be able to serve that,” QLL volunteer Erik Lundstrom told CNN.

“Queer people have so many barriers to access queer literature – social, economic, and political,” QLL founder and executive director Kieran Hickey. “(For) anybody who’s on a journey of self-discovery in their sexual orientation or gender identity, finding information and going to queer spaces can be incredibly daunting. So, this is a resource that anybody in the United States can have no matter where they live.”

To make browsing QLL that much less daunting, the library offers discretion and privacy options for members who are not yet out. Members can access the collection through third party library sites like Overdrive and the Libby app. Additionally, the QLL page contains a prominent “quick exit” bar, allowing users to instantly close the page if needed.

“This was a way to combat the book bans, but also to give people that sense of home and safety in their own space without having to potentially out themselves in any way,” Hickey explained. “Privacy and hiding don’t have to be the same thing.”

In the few short months since the library opened in October, it has already become a lifeline. “There was one person who let us know that we’re their main access to library materials at this point because of where they live in a rural area,” Hickey said.

“That was a lot for me because I was just like, ‘This is the exact person I’m trying to reach. This is the exact person I want to help.’”

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