Don't judge the ALA's first in-person LibLearnX Conference by its modest attendance figures. As I noted in my report for Publishers Weekly, for its first in-person winter event in three years, the ALA faced stiff headwinds: the pandemic and its impact still loom large, and libraries and vendors alike are facing a very uncertain economy. In speaking with librarians at the show, my impression is that the meeting showed real value. Amid the challenges of 2023, LibLearnX highlighted the importance of gathering in-person. And it succeeded in showing that there is life after Midwinter. American Libraries has a lot of LibLearnX program coverage worth checking out.

Nice piece by Deb Aoki at Comics Beat on LibLearnX, featuring lots of comics, manga, graphic novels. "As the first in-person event held in a while, the crowds were modest, and the exhibit hall was smaller than years past, and definitely much quieter than usual. But the people who did come were happy to reconnect with each other in person again, and several mentioned that they appreciated the opportunity to have conversations and collaborate in a setting that was more intimate and low-key..."

Black History Month is off to a chilling start with news this week that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has apparently swayed the College Board into changing its AP African American studies course. "After heavy criticism from Gov. Ron DeSantis, the College Board released on Wednesday an official curriculum for its new Advanced Placement course in African American Studies—stripped of much of the subject matter that had angered the governor and other conservatives," reports the New York Times this week. "The expunged writers and scholars include Kimberlé W. Crenshaw, a law professor at Columbia, which touts her work as “foundational in critical race theory”; Roderick Ferguson, a Yale professor who has written about queer social movements; and Ta-Nehisi Coates, the author who has made the case for reparations for slavery. Gone, too, is bell hooks, the writer who shaped discussions about race, feminism, and class."

In an open letter posted on Medium, more than 650 scholars blasted the DeSantis administration's actions to dictate the content of the AP African American studies course. "This is censorship and a frontal attack on academic freedom," the letter reads. "Contrary to DeSantis’s claims of promoting freedom in education, he is suppressing learning in his state and limiting the freedom of Florida students to choose what they can learn. He is destroying core educational principles that should be sacrosanct to all leaders in a democratic society."

Last week we shared news of classroom libraries being made inaccessible to students in Manatee County Florida, as a new law would subject librarians and educators to prosecution for making available resources deemed "inappropriate" by the state. Now, the local Herald Tribune reports that some Manatee County commissioners are expressing similar concerns for the county's public library. "After accepting donations from the Friends of Lakewood Ranch Library and the Manatee County Library Foundation, commissioners expressed apprehension that the funds could open the door to a 'woke agenda' in the selection of the library materials made available," the paper reports.

Oh, but nothing to see here, says conservative heavyweight National Review, which dismisses what's going on in Florida as "The Great Florida Classroom Library Freak-Out." The "freak-out in Manatee County seems to have been based on at least two things: conflicting messages from the district about what books should be temporarily removed from classroom shelves until they are vetted, and a lack of clarity about what materials could actually lead to a teacher or staff member being criminally charged," the report contends.

At progressive stalwart The Nation, publisher and editorial director Katrina vanden Heuvel weighs in on the surge in books bans and censorship. "Right-wing activists have taken over school boards across the country, banning books on topics from slavery to the Holocaust, rejecting courses like AP African American Studies, and prohibiting teachers from discussing gender identity in the classroom. Now, in a comically transparent escalation of this anti-intellectual crusade, they are targeting libraries," she writes. "Worse, they’ve embraced a characteristically cruel approach to doing so: bullying librarians."

The LA Times has a story on the kind of bullying librarians are facing. "A number of school board meetings in recent years have become explosive and emblematic of the country’s political animosities," the report states. "Parents yell, boo, shake fists, and hold up sexually graphic images in dramas that play out on social media."

In addition to her typically comprehensive (and frightening) weekly censorship roundup at Book Riot, Kelly Jensen also has a piece calling out one of the groups fueling the attacks on librarians and pushing for these restrictive laws: Moms for Liberty.

Also at Book Riot, Arvyn Cerézo reviews the state of diversity in the publishing industry. Spoiler alert: "the publishing industry remains white, and more work is needed to be done to level the playing field."

EveryLibrary has released its 2022 annual report. Check out their strong work on behalf of libraries.

In Texas, a new bill caught our attention this week: it would empower the state to ban vendors (publishers?) that offer what the state deems "obscene" materials. Another potentially concerning development for publishers, as earlier this year we reported on a bill in Texas that would require publishers to develop and implement a rating system (which the state could then manipulate) for books sold to schools in the state.

In Virginia, a state senate committee voted unanimously to table a library e-book bill introduced last month with a "Pass By Indefinitely" vote. In a statement, the Association of American Publishers, which strongly opposes library e-book legislation, said the "decisive vote" was "a resounding rejection of state-level legislation that seeks to unconstitutionally infringe on well-established federal law protecting the rights of creators.” However, the Passed By Indefinitely action allows the committee to "reconsider the legislation at a later meeting."

Meanwhile, Connecticut has introduced a new library e-book bill, SB 500.

And finally, the Urban Libraries Council this week released a new white paper, “Food Is a Right: Libraries and Food Justice.” "We know children can’t learn well if they are hungry, and we believe food is a basic human right,” said ULC President and CEO Brooks Rainwater, in a release. “As trusted community anchors, public libraries are well-positioned to use their resources and relationships to positively address food insecurity for people of color. Access to food and nutrition information is an equity issue, and many libraries have made providing programs and services in distressed neighborhoods a priority.” Good stuff.

The Week in Libraries is a weekly opinion and news column. News, tips, submissions, questions or comments are welcome, and can be submitted via email.