The headlines this week underscore how the movement to ban books has entered a difficult new phase, as librarians, educators, and book vendors struggle with how to comply with new laws and policies seeking to censor allegedly "sexually explicit" books.

As we reported this week for Publishers Weekly, publishers and authors are balking at a request from the nation's largest distributor of books to schools for help rating their own titles to comply with Texas's new book rating law, HB 900. Set to go into effect on September 1, HB 900 certainly puts vendors in a bind: it requires them to review and rate the thousands of books sold into schools for sexual content. But as one publishing executive told PW on background this week, aiding vendors in rating their books would make them "complicit" in an act of censorship.

Make no mistake, an upcoming August 18 hearing in an Austin court now looms as one of the most important in recent publishing history. At the hearing, Judge Alan D. Albright will hear arguments for a preliminary injunction blocking HB 900 from taking effect. The motion argues that the "delegation of government authority to regulate speech to private entities or individuals, such as the establishment of rating systems," is unconstitutional. But if HB 900 is allowed to take effect on September 1 as scheduled, the impact will likely be felt beyond Texas, freedom to read advocates warn, likely serving as a green light for similar "book rating'"bills in other states.

In Florida, Click Orlando reports on the effort now underway to screen books in libraries and schools for sexual content, as required by the recently passed HB 1069. “I think we have over a million books that have been or are in the process of being reviewed," Orange County Public Schools Superintendent Maria Vazquez told reporters. "They’re not going to be able to finish (in time for the school year). Imagine how many books. It’s an extensive review, and we want to make sure we’re doing the job correctly.”

Also in Florida, reports on efforts to screen books for sexual content. "The libraries are not closed,” Superintendent Keith Leonard told reporters. "There will be a limited selection for them to either read or check out. People just need to be patient with us... It’s unfortunate this is where we are. But in today’s time that’s what we have to do and we’ll continue to do it.”

The Tallahassee Democrat has a piece on how the attacks on the freedom to read are moving from Florida schools to public libraries. “The shift from the school library to the public library is very much underway,” Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression and education programs at PEN America, told reporters. “It’s not so much a shift. It’s like an expansion of the target.”

“It’s not so much a shift. It’s like an expansion of the target.

In Alabama, the local Fauquier Times reports on three local high school lists of books deemed sexually explicit, which, under new rules, means that parents will be notified when their students check the books out, and can prohibit the checkout if they wish. "Books flagged at all three schools include bestselling and award-winning novels such as Looking for Alaska by John Green; The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky; A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khalid Hosseini; and the poetry collection Milk and Honey, by Rupi Kaur," the report notes.

NPR reports on the ongoing confusion in Missouri as librarians attempt to comply with Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft's new rule banning allegedly obscene content from libraries. "Jason Kuhl, CEO of the St. Charles City-County Library district, said most of the issues the rule addresses have been in place in public libraries for years," the report notes. 'I'm going to quote another library director here: This is a solution in search of a problem,’” Kuhl said.

NPR also has a report on how efforts to attack librarians, like Louisiana librarian Amanda Jones (who is featured in the piece) is exacting a heavy toll from librarians, some of whom are leaving the profession. "Many who have fled for friendlier turf, or quit the field altogether, have done so at great personal cost, uprooting their families, for example, or forgoing benefit," the report states. "That was the case for one librarian in Texas who asked not to be identified, for fear of provoking exactly the kind of backlash she was trying to escape. She had always hoped to work until she was eligible for her maximum retirement package, but opted instead to leave significant money on the table, because, she says, she just couldn't take it anymore. 'It was a dark cloud over me all the time,' she sighs. 'To feel like an enemy, a groomer, and all these things, it just made me feel sick all the time.' Giving up her job, and letting go of what she considered her calling, however, caused her a whole other level of pain."

The Indianapolis Star has a report on author John Green's reaction to his bestselling book The Fault in Our Stars being among the books pulled from the Hamilton East Public Library's teen shelves in light of a new "age appropriate" access policy. "This is ludicrous," Green tweeted Wednesday. "It is about teenagers and I wrote it for teenagers. Teenagers are not harmed by reading TFIOS,'" the report states. "At the direction of the library board, staff members have been going through all books in the teen section for the past several months and moving those that run afoul of board policy. The policy targets language about "sexuality and reproduction, profanity and criminal acts."

The Guardian has a piece on Democracy Forward, the nonprofit advocacy group that is part of a coalition that successfully sued to block Act 372, Arkansas's "harmful to minors" from taking effect last month. “The far right has been strategic about trying to organize groups such as Moms for Liberty, formed to provide an appearance that there is an organic movement sprouting across the country, that people are really concerned about children being able to access books, about freedom of expression and what’s being taught in schools," Skye Perryman, president and chief executive of Democracy Forward, told the Guardian's Martin Pengelly. "And what we see time and again is that those voices do not represent a majority of people, and that they are part of a network that is coordinated to try to create issues, in order to be able to roll back progress and roll back our basic freedoms, including the freedom to read and the ability of communities to thrive."

ALA president Emily Drabinksi gave an interview to NBC News in the wake of the Montana State Library Commission's decision to pull out of ALA over a nearly two year-old since deleted tweet. It allows Wyoming Rep. John Bear the space to say ALA "is full of Marxists" who "promote books that 'create a sexualized child' at an earlier age” but fails to probe those statements in any way. Withdrawing from the ALA will actually hurt libraries and librarians in Montana. Maybe at least ask about that?

Over at Book Riot Kelly Jensen starts her weekly censorship news roundup by questioning the impact of Brave Books and Kirk Cameron's "nationwide storytime" held in libraries on August 5, concluding that the rather quiet day "furthers the reality that these events are not what people are clamoring for."

As expected, a proposed judgment has been filed this afternoon in the copyright infringement case over the Internet Archive's scanning and lending of library books. Among its provisions: a declaration that the IA's scanning and lending is copyright infringement; an injunction prohibiting infringing activity; and a confidential monetary settlement. In a statement, the Association of American Publishers said it hopes "the extensive analysis of the Court and serious nature of the stipulated judgment will discourage other actors who refuse to account to copyright owners and the law.” The proposed judgment, once approved by the court, means the Internet Archive can now appeal, which it vowed to do in a statement. "We believe that the judge made errors of law and fact in the decision, and we will appeal." We'll have more on the proposed judgment on the PW site next week.

Library Journal has announced Hallie Rich as its new editor-in-chief. "Rich brings more than 20 years of experience as a communications professional to the role, spending the past decade working at the intersection of libraries and media as a member of the executive team at Cuyahoga County Public Library," the LJ release reads. “Through my work at one of the nation’s best large public library systems and engagement in national library advocacy efforts, I have had the opportunity to witness and experience the many ways that libraries and library professionals change lives," Rich said, in a statement. "I want to bring more of those stories forward and to help shape the conversations that place a library lens on our changing society."

And finally this week, PEN America has published an interesting report on what it calls "toxic literary culture," calling on publishers to to avoid self-censorship in the form of canceling books, often due to social media blowback.

"In researching this report, PEN America examined 16 cases of author, publisher, or estate withdrawals of books between 2021 and 2023, with the most recent occurring in June 2023. None of these books were withdrawn based on any allegation of containing factual disinformation, nor the glorification of violence, or plagiarized passages. Their content or author was simply deemed offensive," the report notes.

Some of the objections (that the books pulled are "harmful, dangerous, or hateful" especially to children) mirror the rhetoric that has led to pulling books from school and library shelves in Florida, Texas, and elsewhere, the report notes. "In major publishing houses, staffers have increasingly expressed opposition to specific book contracts with writers whom they allege to be promoting forms of harm, in some cases going so far as to demand that contracts be nullified," the report points, adding that the imperative to 'jealously guard' the freedom to read is a principle that stretches beyond adherence to the First Amendment and beyond vigilance against government interference. This guardianship also requires a stalwart defense of the right of authors to write books that others may find offensive—and the right of publishers to publish them, and of readers to choose to read them."

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.