With the second 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, vital to the health of our communities and crucial to our reading and literary cultures.

A daylong program on Tuesday, May 24, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. ET, features an array of voices and perspectives from the library community in two sessions. The morning program explores the rise of book banning across the nation, while the afternoon session focuses on challenges in the profession, including worker safety, digital equity issues, and post-pandemic-restrictions library leadership. Plus on the evening of Wednesday, May 25, the popular Friends & Fiction author group hosts a special library-themed live online session. All times given are in Eastern Time.

Program I

Tuesday, May 24, 11 a.m.–1 p.m.

Opening Remarks


• Andrew Richard Albanese, PW senior writer, leads the magazine’s library coverage. Albanese has covered the publishing and information technology fields for more than 22 years and is a former associate editor of American history at Oxford University Press, a former editor at Library Journal, and author of The Battle of $9.99: How Apple, Amazon and the Big Six Publishers Changed the E-book Business Overnight.

• Sari Feldman, PW columnist, is the former executive director of the Cuyahoga County Public Library in Cleveland and a past president of both the Public Library Association (2009–2010) and the American Library Association (2015–2016). She is currently an ALA policy fellow focusing on digital library policy.

Special guests

• Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression and education at PEN America, oversees advocacy, analysis, and outreach concerning educational communities and academic institutions.

• Deborah Caldwell Stone, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, leads projects addressing censorship and privacy issues in the library.

• Lessa Kanani‘opua Pelayo-Lozada, adult services assistant manager at the Palos Verdes (Calif.) Library District, will begin her term at president of the ALA at the 2022 Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., in June. She has worked as a clerk, children’s librarian, teen librarian, and adult services librarian and is currently executive director of the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association.

• Patricia “Patty” Wong, city librarian of Santa Clara, Calif., is the current president of the ALA; her term concludes in June. Wong has worked as a school librarian, children’s librarian, cataloger, and special librarian, and has held numerous leadership roles in public libraries.

Discussion: Once More for Those in the Back: Libraries Are Not Neutral!

A group of library educators will explain how a fundamental mischaracterization of library neutrality is being used to justify book bans and other harmful legislation across the country, and will offer a better understanding of how—and why—libraries must stand up for diversity, equity, and inclusion in their communities.

Moderator: Andrew Richard Albanese


• Renate Chancellor, chair and associate professor in the Department of Library and Information Science at the Catholic University of America. Her work focuses on equity, human information behavior (particularly in legal environments), and diversity and social justice in library and information science. She is the author of E.J. Josey: Transformational Leader of the Modern Library Profession.

• Nicole A. Cooke, the Augusta Baker Endowed Chair and an associate professor at the University of South Carolina. Cooke was awarded the ALA’s Equality Award in 2016, and she received the 2019 ALISE Excellence in Teaching Award. She has edited and written several books, including Fake News and Alternative Facts: Information Literacy in a Post-truth Era.

• Yasmeen Shorish, associate professor with the James Madison University Libraries. Much of her research focuses on the curatorial and educational activities that make that data available for further study and the relationship between information access and power and privilege, and the democratizing potential of information access.

Discussion: The Politicization of Libraries

With the alarming rise of book bans, educational gag orders, and other legislation infringing on free speech, libraries and schools have been drawn into the culture wars. In this frank discussion, a group of politically savvy public advocates will break down the organized political movement targeting America’s schools and libraries, and will explore how libraries and library supporters can push back.

Moderator: Andrew Richard Albanese


• John Chrastka, executive director and founder of EveryLibrary, the only national political action committee for libraries. Chrastka and EveryLibrary work each election season to support dozens of local ballot initiatives in communities across the nation.

• Donald Cohen, founder and executive director of In the Public Interest, a national nonprofit research and policy organization that studies public goods and services. Cohen is the author, with Allen Mikaelian, of The Privatization of Everything: How the Plunder of Public Goods Transformed America and How We Can Fight Back.

• Caroline Richmond, an author of numerous books and executive director of We Need Diverse Books, a nonprofit that advocates for diversity in children’s literature.

Interview: R. David Lankes

In Forged in War: How a Century of War Created Today’s Information Society, library educator Lankes explores of how today’s information world was forged by conflict, how propaganda and misinformation are becoming a crucial new battlefield in the age of social media, and why it’s time to rethink our knowledge infrastructure.

Lunch (By the Numbers)

1:15–2:15 p.m.

Take a short break, grab a sandwich, and dig in with two lunchtime presentations that offer a data-driven look at how digital media consumption habits are evolving.

First up, digital library service provider OverDrive will provide some anonymized, previously unshared data on digital reading trends in libraries and schools. Next, Portland State University researchers will share the results of their latest survey on millennial and Gen Z media behavior. The researchers will be joined by inclusive marketing expert Sonia Thompson, who advises libraries how to better serve Gen Z and millennials.


• Steve Potash, a pioneer in the digital library market and the founder and CEO of OverDrive, the world’s leading library digital library service provider, which includes the Libby and Sora reading apps.

• Kathi Inman Berens, author, researcher, and associate professor of book publishing and digital humanities at Portland State University.

• Rachel Noorda, author, researcher, and director of book publishing at Portland State University.

• Sonia Thompson, strategist and consultant who helps brands win customers by delivering inclusive experiences that make them feel like they belong.

Program II

Tuesday, May 24, 2:30–5 p.m.

Discussion: The Movement for Digital Equity

In February, a federal court blocked a Maryland law that sought to guarantee public library access to digital books on what the law called “reasonable” terms, but legislative and advocacy efforts continue around the country. This discussion will focus on what comes next in the library community’s ongoing push for equity in the digital library market.

Moderator: Andrew Richard Albanese


• Michael Blackwell, director of the St. Mary’s County (Md.) Library and an organizer of ReadersFirst, a coalition of libraries that advocates for equitable access to digital content in public libraries.

• Carmi Parker, ILS administrator at the Whatcom County (Wash.) Library System and committee member for the Washington Digital Library Consortium.

• Kelvin Watson, executive director of the Las Vegas–Clark County Library District and cochair of the ALA’s Digital Content Working Group.

Special Guest

Jennie Rose Halperin, executive director of Library Futures, an advocacy group founded in 2020 to pursue policies that support the mission of libraries in the digital realm.

Discussion: We Are Still Not Okay: The Movement to Protect Library Workers

In a February 2022 webinar titled “We Are Not Okay,” a panel of librarians explored the toll extracted by their work before and during the pandemic. This discussion will build on that webinar, reflecting on the experiences of library workers, and will look ahead to the kinds of changes needed to support the physical and mental well-being of library workers as we barrel toward a post-pandemic world.

Moderator: Andrew Richard Albanese


• Veronda Pitchford, assistant director of the Califa Group, a nonprofit membership consortium of libraries across California, and principal investigator for the IMLS-funded Libraries as Second Responders project.

• Andrea Lemoins, outreach coordinator for the Free Library of Philadelphia and founder of Concerned Black Workers of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

• Christian Zabriskie, executive director of the Onondaga County (N.Y.) Library System and founder and executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group Urban Libraries Unite. In 2020 he was named Library Journal’s Librarian of the Year.

Discussion: What’s Next for Library Leadership?

America’s libraries rose to the challenge of the pandemic—now what? This discussion will explore some of the pressing issues facing library leaders, looking at what has to change and what skills librarians can lean on going forward.

Moderator: Sari Feldman


• Stephanie Chase, executive director of Libraries of Eastern Oregon. She leads a 15-county, 50-library consortium with resource sharing, training, and networking opportunities.

• R. David Lankes, an author and an educator. Lankes is the Virginia and Charles Bowden Professor of Librarianship at the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Information.

• Roosevelt Weeks, veteran library leader and director of the Austin (Tex.) Public Library. He is passionate about improving technology, literacy, and education both inside and outside of the library.

Closing Keynote: U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin

Congressman Raskin of Maryland is author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth, and the Trials of American Democracy, about the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. A constitutional scholar, a tireless advocate for free speech, and a leading defender of democracy, Raskin is also a fervent supporter of libraries. As chair of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, he held a hearing on April 7 that explored ongoing efforts to ban books from schools and public libraries across the country.

Celebrate Libraries with Friends & Fiction

Wednesday, May 25, 6:45–8 p.m.

Formed in the early days of the pandemic by bestselling novelists Mary Kay Andrews, Kristin Harmel, Kristy Woodson Harvey, and Patti Callahan Henry, the Friends & Fiction online community hosts weekly gatherings where the novelists interview other major authors, share writing tips and insider talk about publishing and writing, spotlight indie booksellers, and offer heavy doses of friendship, support, and positivity. Join Friends & Fiction at the U.S. Book Show for a special library-themed episode, with scheduled guests including authors Tia Williams and T.J. Newman.

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