With the third annual Libraries Are Essential program, the U.S. Book Show once again acknowledges a simple fact: America’s libraries are more than just a key marketplace for publishers and authors; they are bedrock institutions, anchors in our communities, vital to the health of our democracy and society, and crucial to our reading and literary cultures.

Moderated by PW senior writer Andrew Richard Albanese, the 2023 Libraries Are Essential program will focus on two key issues facing the library community. The morning session will explore how librarians and advocates can defeat the unprecedented assault on the freedom to read currently surging across the nation. The afternoon session will look at what’s next for digital resources in public libraries as the U.S. begins to settle into a postpandemic new normal.

The program will close with a keynote discussion featuring bestselling authors Ibram X. Kendi and Nic Stone, coauthors of How to Be a (Young) Antiracist, in conversation with Nicole A. Cooke, Augusta Baker endowed chair and an associate professor at the University of South Carolina.

Libraries Are Essential is online only, and is set for Monday, May 22, beginning at 10:30 a.m.

Librarians can register on the U.S. Book Show website and use the code PFLCOMP for free virtual access.

Morning Session

10:30–11:45 a.m.

Book Banning in America: What’s Driving the Nationwide Surge in Book Bans—and How Freedom to Read Advocates Can Prevail

The unprecedented, politically motivated surge in book bans and attacks on the freedom to read continue to reach alarming new heights in communities across the nation. In this discussion, a group of politically savvy advocates will explore how libraries and library supporters can push back—and win.


John Chrastka is executive director and founder of EveryLibrary, the only national political action committee for libraries, working each election season to support dozens of local ballot initiatives in communities across the nation and supporting libraries in their defense of the freedom to read.

Kelly Jensen is a writer and editor for Book Riot. A former librarian, she has become one of the nation’s foremost chroniclers of the current wave of book bans and legislation threatening the freedom to read through her weekly book censorship news column for Book Riot.

Amanda Jones is a veteran educator and school librarian and the 2021 School Library Journal co-librarian of the year. For her advocacy work, including the creation of a censorship toolkit for school and public libraries, the ALA recognized her with the 2023 Paul Howard Award for Courage and the 2023 American Association of School Librarians’ Intellectual Freedom Award.

Emily Knox is an associate professor in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, author of the acclaimed Book Banning in 21st-Century America, and board president of the National Coalition Against Censorship.

Raegan Miller is the director of development and finance for the Florida Freedom to Read Project, a grassroots organization committed to defending every student’s right to access information and ideas while at school. She is the mother of two children in public school in Florida and has served as the legislative chair and v-p of advocacy for Pinellas County Council PTA.

Afternoon Session

12:30–1:15 p.m.

Digital Trends: Three Years After the Pandemic Shutdowns Began, What Does the New Normal Look Like for Public Libraries?

When Covid-19 forced the nation into lockdown three years ago, digital library resources hit stratospheric new levels—and so did book sales. What did we learn about library usage? What new pressures are libraries grappling with as we get back to some sense of normal? And is the library e-book market slipping back into a familiar, contentious place? This panel will bring together three leading digital directors to discuss what we’ve learned about libraries during the pandemic, and where things still need to go.


Edward Melton is executive director of the Harris County Public Library (Tex.), where he oversees 26 branch libraries serving nearly two million residents. In 2022, Harris County had the fourth-highest number of digital checkouts in the U.S. via OverDrive.

Lisa Rosenblum is director of the King County Library System (Wash.). One of the busiest library systems in the country, KCLS consistently ranks as one of the nation’s leaders in digital circulations, and in 2022 it had the second-highest number of digital checkouts in the U.S. via OverDrive.

Ellen Paul is the executive director of the Connecticut Library Consortium, a non-profit membership group serving more than 950 academic, public, school and special libraries across the state.

Closing Keynote

1:15–2 p.m.

Ibram X. Kendi and Nic Stone, in conversation with Nicole A. Cooke.

The bestselling authors will answer questions and discuss their new book How to Be a (Young) Antiracist.

Ibram X. Kendi is the Andrew W. Mellon professor in the humanities at Boston University and the founding director of the BU Center for Antiracist Research. He is the author of many acclaimed books, including Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, which won the National Book Award for nonfiction, as well as five #1 New York Times bestsellers, including How to Be an Antiracist; Antiracist Baby; and Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, coauthored by Jason Reynolds.

Nic Stone is an Atlanta native, a Spelman College graduate, and the author of several bestselling books including her debut YA novel Dear Martin and the middle grade novel Clean Getaway. She is also the author of Odd One Out, an NPR best book of the year and a Rainbow Book List top ten selection; Jackpot; Shuri: A Black Panther Novel; and Dear Justyce, the sequel to Dear Martin.

Nicole A. Cooke is the Augusta Baker endowed chair and an associate professor at the University of South Carolina. Cooke received the ALA’s Equality Award in 2016 and the 2019 ALISE Excellence in Teaching Award.

Click here to register for the U.S. Book Show, and click here for more information on the programming.

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