Did you know that in 2016 there were 1.4 billion visits to public libraries across the country? Or, that the nation’s academic libraries hold some 2.5 billion items in their collections? Or, that only 61% of school libraries have a full-time school librarian, despite numerous studies showing the positive impact librarians have on student performance? These are just some of the facts called out in the American Library Association’s 2019 “State of America’s Libraries Report,” released this week in conjunction with National Library Week.
The 30-page report is a brief but interesting overview of the array of programming libraries now offer, as well as the challenges libraries face, with a good chunk of the report devoted to the annual Most Challenged Books list—which this year points to a disturbing trend: the growing use of “extreme tactics” targeting LGBTQ materials.
“These tactics range from an actual book burning in Iowa that targeted LGBTQIA+ books to lawsuits filed to halt libraries’ drag queen story hours, and to end community access to curated and authoritative research databases,” the report states, adding that such tactics in some cases have proven successful "in chilling the willingness of schools and libraries to provide access to diverse information and ideas.”
As we noted last week, the Top 10 Most Challenged books list this year list includes 11 titles, culled by the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, which tracked 347 challenges involving some 483 books in 2018. This year’s list includes:
- George by Alex Gino
Banned, challenged, and relocated because it was believed to encourage children to clear browser history and change their bodies using hormones, and for mentioning “dirty magazines,” describing male anatomy, “creating confusion,” and including a transgender character
- A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller
Banned and challenged for including LGBTQIA+ content, and for political and religious viewpoints
- Captain Underpants series written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey
Series was challenged because it was perceived as encouraging disruptive behavior, while Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot was challenged for including a same-sex couple
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Banned and challenged because it was deemed “anti-cop,” and for profanity, drug use, and sexual references
- Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
Banned and challenged for including LGBTQIA+ characters and themes
- Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Banned, challenged, and restricted for addressing teen suicide
- This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and certain illustrations
- Skippyjon Jones series written and illustrated by Judy Schachner
Challenged for depicting stereotypes of Mexican culture
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Banned and challenged for sexual references, profanity, violence, gambling, and underage drinking, and for its religious viewpoint
- This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten
Challenged and burned for including LGBTQIA+ content
- Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Challenged and burned for including LGBTQIA+ content
“Eleven books were chosen this year instead of the usual 10, because numbers 10 and 11 in the list were tied for the final position. Both books were burned by a religious activist in Orange City, Iowa, in October to protest the city’s OC Pride event. OIF expanded the list to include both, in order to spotlight the repressive intolerance exemplified by the act of book burning and to remember that 'he who destroys a good book kills reason itself' (John Milton, Areopagitica).”
You can read the full The State of America’s Libraries report here.
A bit of good news to wrap up National Library Week: American Libraries reports on a strong response to the library community's "Dear Appropriator" letters, as the effort to firm up legislative support for federal library funding closed this week. "With the Institute of Museum and Library Services under threat of elimination from the White House for the third straight year, library advocates were called on to respond forcefully and quickly—and they did." writes ALA's Kevin Maher.
Vox has an interesting take on the the bid to restore net neutrality, after the House this week passed the Save the Internet Act of 2019 by a vote of 232-190. "Trump has said he will veto the bill should it make it to his desk. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the bill 'dead on arrival in the Senate."
Back to the subject of chilling speech, The New York Times reports that California Congressman Devin Nunes is suing McClatchy for $150 million over a May, 2018, story that appeared in his district's local paper, The Fresno Bee. "Lots of politicians seethe about the news media, but not many channel their frustrations through lawsuits," the Times notes. This is the second defamation lawsuit in a month for Nunes, who filed a $250 million lawsuit against Twitter last month.
And more from Greenville, S.C., where CBS 7 reports that more than 1,000 people have signed a petition asking the library to reinstate and apologize to two library employees pushed out of their jobs over a Drag Queen Story Hour. "Employee retaliation undermines the protection of important librarian rights, including the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the ALA Bill of Rights," the petition reads. "More worrisome in this context, it sets a precedent that a future patron viewed as provocative or unwanted by some in the community could be denied assistance or resources."
The Seattle Times reports that the ban on books being sent to inmates in Washington state correctional facilities has apparently been lifted. "Last Friday, after a week of uproar over the ban, DOC Secretary Stephen Sinclair announced the agency would make sure used books could still enter prisons in some fashion."
From The New York Times, this eye-opening look at the Wikipedia community. "It is a kind of social network where users debate the minutiae of history and modern life, climb the editorial hierarchy and even meet friends and romantic partners," the Times notes. "It is also a place where editors can experience relentless harassment."
Via American Libraries, the votes are in and congratulations to Julius C. Jefferson, Jr., section head of the Congressional Research Service at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and your 2020/2021 ALA president.
CNET this week interviews Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden on her plans to "throw open the treasure chest" and make more of the Library of Congress's treasures available online. "We want to make these things accessible to people who could never come in person, so they can see our manuscripts division and see Thomas Jefferson's draft of the Declaration of Independence with footnotes or little side notes, with BF for Benjamin Franklin and JA for John Adams," Hayden says. You have to love how Hayden effortlessly speaks of rare treasures belonging to Thomas Jefferson and Captain Underpants in the same interview. A true librarian!
Also from CNET, how libraries are upping their social media game to attract users. From "pithy tweets to InstaNovels on Instagram, libraries around the world are using social media to entertain and reach their audiences."
On the subject of treasures, The Guardian reports on a major find: "The Libro de los Epítomes manuscript, which is more than a foot thick, contains more than 2,000 pages and summaries from the library of Hernando Colón, the illegitimate son of Christopher Columbus who made it his life’s work to create the biggest library the world had ever known in the early part of the 16th century. " Cambridge historian Edward Wilson-Lee, author of a recent biography of Colón, The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books says the discovery is important "not only because it contains so much information about how people read 500 years ago, but also, because it contains summaries of books that no longer exist."
On a more modern note, a great piece in The Atlantic from Dan Cohen, former head of the Digital Public Library of America and now Vice Provost for Information Collaboration at Northeastern University on why Barack Obama's presidential library is taking a digital approach, and why that's generating some friction. "The debate about the Obama library exhibits a fundamental confusion," Cohen writes. "Given its origins and composition, the Obama library is already largely digital. The vast majority of the record his presidency left behind consists not of evocative handwritten notes, printed cable transmissions, and black-and-white photographs, but email, Word documents, and JPEGs. The question now is how to leverage its digital nature to make it maximally useful and used."
The New York Public Library this week announced the finalists for its Young Lions Fiction Award. The award is given annually to an American writer age 35 or younger for either a novel or a collection of short stories. A panel of award judges—which this year includes 2018 winner Lesley Nneka Arimah— will select the winner of this year's $10,000 prize. The winning writer will be awarded on June 13, 2019.
The University of California announced this week that it has signed a major "read and publish" open access deal with Cambridge University Press, "UC’s first open access agreement with a major publisher, and Cambridge’s first such deal in the Americas." Under the agreement, UC will have "full and permanent access to the Press’s entire collection of over 400 journals, and open access publishing in Cambridge’s journals will be available to authors across the UC’s 10 campuses." This is the kind of deal UC has been seeking with leading for-profit publisher Elsevier, before walking away from the publisher earlier this year.
As for Cambridge University Press, they have been aggressively moving toward "read and publish" open access deals in Europe, with The Bookseller reporting another major agreement this week, this one with Germany's Max Planck Institute.
Hat tip to Gary Price at InfoDocket, meanwhile for pointing out this enlightening interview with eLife Editor, open access advocate, and U.C. researcher Michael Eisen, who shares his view of UC's decision to cut ties with Elsevier. "Maybe this will lead to what really needs to happen, which is for UC to go into these negotiations with an ironclad policy that says, 'We are never paying for subscriptions.'” And more from Gary Price on how Elsevier's growing problem doesn't seem to be going away: the Louisiana State University is planning a vote on whether to cancel its Elsevier subscription. And, the University of Missouri system has formed a task force to explore its subscriptions and a move toward open access.
Harvard Magazine has a piece on the newly appointed Harvard University Librarian: "Martha Whitehead, Librarian of Queen’s University in Ontario since 2011 and vice provost there since 2014, has been appointed Harvard University librarian, vice president for the Harvard Library, and Larsen librarian for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, effective in June. She succeeds Sarah Thomas, who retired at the end of 2018, concluding five years of service."
Again, these stories never get old: National Geographic offers a look at 23 of the world’s 'most enchanting' libraries, from "monasteries to royal reading rooms."