As we reported for Publishers Weekly, residents in Llano County were able to exhale after county commissioners this week decided that closing down the library system—in the glare of a national media spotlight—wasn't such a good idea after all.

Llano County commissioners had called a special session for this week to discuss shutting down its libraries after a federal judge in late March ordered more than a dozen censored books returned to Llano County library shelves. But after significant media attention and a rally by local library supporters, the commissioners voted to keep the library open and table discussion of the library's future, at least for now.

In a tweet yesterday from the ALA’s Unite Against Book Bans account, ALA officials, who helped organize a response to the county's action, praised local library advocates for showing up to support their library. “#UniteAgainstBookBans is grateful to those who spoke up for the freedom to read today in Llano County,” the tweet said. “This is the power of organizing as a community.”

The Texas Tribune reports that 100 local library supporters rallied outside the hearing in support of the Llano County libraries. The article also points out an interesting perspective expressed by the county commissioners: it's the community members suing the county over its illegal book bans that are actually to blame for imperiling the library's future. "[A] public library simply cannot function if its librarians, county judge, commissioners, and even the volunteers who serve out the goodness of their heart, can be sued every time a library patron disagrees with a librarian’s ‘weeding’ decision,” Llano County Judge Ron Cunningham said in a statement, according to the report.

Cunningham's dissembling statement omits the fact that there are well-established practices in place for removing books. And in his March 30 opinion and order, judge Robert Pitman specifically rejected the argument that Llano County officials were engaged in a "weeding" exercise. “Although libraries are afforded great discretion for their selection and acquisition decisions, the First Amendment prohibits the removal of books from libraries based on either viewpoint or content discrimination,” Pitman wrote in his 26-page decision. “Here, the evidence shows defendants targeted and removed books, including well-regarded, prize-winning books, based on complaints that the books were inappropriate.”

For Salon, senior writer Amanda Marcotte recognizes the implications of what's happening in Llano County as well in Missouri, where the House voted this week to pull funding for the state's libraries as payback for challenging a controversial new "harmful to minors" law enacted there. "Republicans behind the book-banning typically deny that they have a larger agenda against education or literacy, instead claiming their goals are limited to keeping a small number of books out of people's hands. But there's good reason to think there's a much larger goal afoot, of stigmatizing the very idea of reading and education," Marcotte writes. "Now the anti-reading mania is morphing into a campaign to defund libraries."

At Popular Information, Judd Legum and Rebecca Crosby also write about the gathering funding threat to defund libraries.

It's a threat that EveryLibrary executive director John Chrastka previously warned about after the midterm elections last November, when voters in Jamestown, Michigan, rejected a second attempt by the Patmos Library to renew their basic levy after a local group attacked the library for over its LGBTQ content; And In Arkansas, where the Craighead County Jonesboro Library was defunded by 50% in the wake of an 18-month campaign to ban LGBTQ books. The "effort to tie library funding to censorship efforts" was likely just beginning, Chrastka told PW last November, suggesting that “defund the library” could become the new end game for book banners unable to achieve their goals by other means. “If they can't ban the book, will they burn the whole place down?” Chrastka asked.

Meanwhile, the Texas Tribune also reports that the Texas Senate has passed a bill that will give the state broad new powers over school libraries in the state. If it becomes law, Senate Bill 13, "would let parents receive notice each time their children obtain school library materials; prohibit the acquisition or retention of 'harmful' and indecent materials' and create local councils to help districts ensure 'community values' are reflected in each school library catalog," the report notes. "Under the bill, school boards would have to approve all new library materials and publicly release lists of proposed library purchases 30 days ahead of acquiring new materials." The bill passed by an 18-12 margin, and now heads to the House, which is already considering a similar measure.

With the Texas Library Association annual conference underway next week in Austin, the Dallas Observer reports that the current climate in Texas is leading to a shortage of librarians. "As the culture wars rage on with no end in sight, North Texas school librarians have increasingly found themselves in the crosshairs. Some are now opting to flee the profession, and advocates warn that certain districts are having a tough time finding qualified new candidates," the article states.

Seeing more money poured into awareness campaigns on the ground, with actionable tools and scripts for people to use to get out in their communities would make a difference. Because the reality is, this is what the book banners have, and this is what they’re doing...

Local NBC affiliate KSDK reported this week on the Missouri House passing a budget this week that zeroes out all funding for public libraries in the state, payback for Missouri librarians joining with the ACLU in a lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of Senate Bill 775, which bans libraries and teachers from sharing allegedly 'sexually explicit' material under the threat of criminal prosecution. "The House budget committee’s choice to retaliate against two private, volunteer-led organizations by punishing the patrons of Missouri’s public libraries is abhorrent," ACLU Missouri spokesman Tom Bastian told reporters. "As with every case when the ACLU represents someone, we are not charging our clients to challenge the unconstitutional book ban the legislature passed last year." The House voted to strip library funding despite the Missouri Senate pledging to restore library funding in any final budget.

At Book Riot, Kelly Jensen delivers a dose of much-needed truth to start her weekly censorship roundup: we're past the point of fighting book bans with online campaigns. And while she acknowledges the good work of many local groups, freedom to read advocates are still getting outworked where it matters most: on the ground. "What would help is seeing more community engagement. Seeing more money poured into awareness campaigns on the ground, with actionable tools and scripts for people to use to get out in their communities would make a difference. Because the reality is, this is what the book banners have, and this is what they’re doing," Jensen writes. "Book banners are in the offices of their representatives, coaxing from them bills which codify hate and censorship. They’re not taking pictures of themselves in anti-book ban shirts on Twitter to show their support of anti-censorship."

In Illinois, the News Gazette gets mixed feedback from librarians about a bill designed to combat book banning, House Bill 2789, which would require libraries in the state to adopt the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights or a similar policy that prohibits book banning as a condition of funding. "I agree with the motivation behind the policy," one librarian commented. "As to whether the possible loss of state funding for libraries is the best way to ensure that libraries can continue to offer materials expressing a variety of viewpoints, I am not yet certain that this is the most effective method to bring about that result.“

The American Library Association has announced a new initiative of the ALA Policy Corps focused on combating book bans and defending the freedom to read. Launched in partnership with ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, the new cadre will work to “showcase how libraries and library workers provide essential information resources to their communities while increasing awareness about the importance of intellectual freedom and its centrality to American democracy and society.” The group will be led by ALA Senior Fellow Kent Oliver and advised by ALA Senior Fellow Christopher Harris. ALA members can engage directly with the group at a Saturday morning program titled: Changing the Narrative: ALA Policy Corps Takes On Book Banners at the 2023 ALA Annual Conference set for June 22-27, in Chicago.

Becky Calzada, Library Services Coordinator in the Leander Independent School District (ISD) based in Leander, Texas, has been elected the 2023-2024 president-elect of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL). She will serve as the AASL President during the 2024-2025 term. Calzada, a member of the ALA Policy Corp, currently serves on the Texas Library Association Legislative Committee and is a co-founding member of #FReadom Fighters, the grassroots effort led by four Texas librarians to fight censorship.

Time has named ALA executive director Tracie D. Hall as one its 100 most influential people of 2023. "Hall’s life’s work teaches each of us that the love of libraries and books can free us from hatred and lies not just for the present generation but for the liberation of all to come."

From Patch, an alarming story in Mamaroneck, just north of New York City, where the public library needs $1.4 million to continue operation after it discovered an embezzlement scheme has drained its coffers. "Our finances were built on false information received from our business manager who worked at the library for 27 years," Mamaroneck Public Library Board President Ellen Freeman told trustees at a special meeting on Monday.

Paywalled, but in the Atlantic, Adam Serwer weighs in on a federal judge's decision that the Internet Archive's program to scan and lend library books is copyright infringement. "There should be a reasonable middle ground that is not publishers gouging libraries or giving away works for free en masse," Serwer writes. "Knowledge is too precious to be abandoned entirely to the whims of the profit motive."

Via Readers First, library advocates this week launched a new website to advocate for new library e-book laws called the eBook Study Group. The initiative comes as revised e-book legislation begins to move in a handful of states, and in response to a recently launched lobbying effort to stop such bills from the major publishers. "The goal of these bills is to firmly ground e-book contracts and licenses under state law," an FAQ on the eBook study group site states. "The bills do not include any language that 'forces' publishers to grant a license; the language proposes an approach that does not demand that publishers license to libraries, but instead merely utilizes existing state law to make sure e-book license and contract terms are fairly balanced and are an effective use of taxpayer money."

Meanwhile, a reminder that time is winding down on the OverDrive App. On May 1, the OverDrive app—which OverDrive effectively replaced in 2017 with its popular Libby app—will no longer be supported and will disappear from various app stores. The move should take no one by surprise: it's been in the works for over a year, and Libby's popularity has likely already enticed the vast majority of library e-book users to make the switch. As this article from TechCrunch notes, libraries have been posting notices and tutorials to switch from the OverDrive app to Libby. But the clock is ticking. This handy FAQ from OverDrive will tell you everything you need to know about making the switch.

And in more OverDrive news, Digipalooza, OverDrive's digital book conference for the library community is back in OverDrive's hometown of Cleveland this year. The conference is scheduled to run August 9-11, bringing together hundreds of public librarians and industry experts from around the world to discuss the state of digital library lending. This week, OverDrive announced that actor, director, producer and author Eriq La Salle (Dr. Peter Benton from ER) will deliver the show's keynote. You can learn more about the show and register here.

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. Previous columns can be viewed here.