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July 18, 2023


Andrea Castillo

(301) 699-3500 x6158

Library’s “Rock Banned” Teams with President Obama on TikTok Video in National Campaign

Largo, Maryland – The Prince George’s County Memorial Library System (PGCMLS) has partnered with former President Barack Obama and the Obama Foundation in a national campaign with libraries to promote the freedom to read, featuring a video that includes the Library’s year-round Rock Banned campaign to be released Thursday, July 20. The video by PGCMLS, which will be shared on TikTok and Instagram, features staff and customers at PGCMLS branch libraries with a selection of favorite banned books.

In a letter released Monday, former President Obama addressed librarians, saying “the free, robust exchange of ideas has always been at the heart of American democracy,” but also expressed concerns that the increasing number of book bans and challenges around the country silences the ideas shared in texts by and about people of a variety of backgrounds and perspectives. 

“In a very real sense, you’re on the front lines – fighting every day to make the widest possible range of viewpoints, opinions, and ideas available to everyone,” Obama said in the letter. “Your dedication and professional expertise allow us to freely read and consider information and ideas, and decide for ourselves which ones we agree with.”

PGCMLS launched its award-winning Rock Banned campaign in 2022 to build public awareness among residents about the importance of the freedom to read as staff and programs were targeted online, branches were vandalized, and programs were disrupted because of the library's visible commitment to Black Lives Matters and the LGBTQ+ community. The same year the campaign started, the ALA documented 1,269 challenges to library books and materials, the highest number since it began compiling the data more than 20 years ago and nearly double the number of challenges from the year before.  Nationally, the challenges in 2022 targeted 2,571 unique titles, many either by or about members of the LGBTQ+ community, as well as by or about Black or Indigenous communities, and people of color. 

“Through our Rock Banned campaign, PGCMLS is dedicated to building public awareness about the importance of the freedom to read all year round. In Prince George’s County, we are committed to intellectual freedom, and our libraries play a vital role in making sure its residents have access to literature and ideas that represent and open the doors to new perspectives and experiences,” said PGCMLS Interim CEO Rick AmRhein. “We are excited to work with President Obama – himself an avid reader –  along with the Obama Foundation, on this important campaign."

Also taking part in the freedom to read campaign with former President Obama and the Obama Foundation is the Kankakee Public Library in Illinois, Harris County Public Library in Texas, and the Woodland Public Library in California.

About the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System

The Prince George’s County Memorial Library System (PGCMLS) helps customers discover and define opportunities that shape their lives. The Library serves the 967,000+ residents of Prince George’s County, Maryland through 19 branch libraries, a 24/7 online library, the County Correctional Center Library, and pop-up services throughout the community. PGCMLS is a responsive and trusted community-driven organization. Programs, services, and outreach activities serve book lovers, immigrants and refugees, job seekers, children, young professionals, seniors, and families alike. PGCMLS is the recipient of two Top Innovator Awards from the Urban Libraries Council (2023 - Democracy; 2021 - Workforce and Economic Development). Learn more at

About the Obama Foundation

The Obama Foundation’s mission is to help people turn hope into action—to inspire, empower, and connect them to change their world. Day in and day out, they are supporting and connecting values-based changemakers around the globe, by working to create a world where girls have equal opportunities to pursue their dreams through access to education, and by fostering safe and supportive communities where young men of color have clear pathways to opportunity. Learn more at