Amid what has been a contentious few years of attacks on libraries and schools (or more accurately, on librarians and educators) the headlines this week seem positively unhinged.

In Illinois, the Chicago Tribune reports on a series of bomb threats that closed libraries in suburban Chicago. While law enforcement has not yet tied the threats directly to movements to portray libraries as a haven for groomers, it certainly fits the pattern. In a release, Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias, who earlier this year pushed legislation to discourage book bans in Illinois libraries, condemned the threats. “The bomb threats received by Illinois libraries during the past several days represent a troublesome and disturbing trend that has escalated from banning books, to harassing and criminalizing librarians and now to endangering the lives of innocent people,” Giannoulias said. “We must join together to stand up to fringe elements that resort to threats of violence and seek to destroy the fundamental freedoms that our nation was founded upon.”

Over at Book Riot, Kelly Jensen leads her weekly censorship column with news of these threats. "By now, many are familiar with the phrase stochastic terrorism. Stochastic terrorism is the best phrase to describe what’s happening with these bomb threats: thanks to right-wing media constantly vilifying people or organizations—say through the use of the word 'groomers' or 'indoctrinators' to describe library workers—there are ideologically-aligned threats or attacks made on those groups," she writes. "So let’s return to the question here that continues to go unanswered but, every day, seems more and more likely: how long until a library worker is killed for doing their job?

Oklahoma News 4 reports that a Tulsa elementary school was hit with a bomb scare because of a TikTok video featuring a highly respected, dedicated school librarian. "We placed a bomb at Ellen Ochoa Elementary,” read one threat. "You will stop pushing this woke ideology or we will bomb every school in the union district.” Got that? They want to protect children so much they will bomb elementary schools. The librarian also received a threat that her home would be blown up as well. The threats were not found to be credible, but the bomb isn't the point, the terror is. A school spokesperson confirmed the threats were a direct result of the TikTok video.

Oh, and making the situation worse, the Oklahoman reports that the Oklahoma State Schools Superintendent tweeted a version of the video doctored by a right wing group, on his superintendent account no less, with a caption stating: "Woke ideology is real and I am here to stop it." While "many replies on Ryan Walter's tweet shared support for him and his policies," the report notes, "most replies voiced frustration with Walters for taking a school employee's joke too seriously, or as a deflection from other education issues in the news." Also, you know, there's the threats of violence.

In Texas, local affiliate ABC 8 reports that a board meeting in Forth Worth boiled over in the wake of library closures prompted by the state's new book rating law, HB 900, which bans "sexually explicit" books from schools. "The library issue wasn't on the Fort Worth district's board agenda Tuesday night, but it was top of mind for plenty of speakers from the public," the report states. "The meeting turned tense when one speaker, identified as a man named Mike, called one of the books in question 'Satanism.' As he began reading from the book, the board questioned if what he was reading was going to be vulgar, which would be a violation of the public speaking rules. The man kept reading from the book, so two officers stepped in and removed him from the podium."

And, it just keeps getting weirder in Texas. ABC 8 also has a report on a conservative school board member who was censured for sneaking into the Granbury High School library. "Karen Lowery is accused of violating district policy by going to Granbury High School’s library without permission and personally looking through books to see if they should be removed," the article states. "Video that Granbury ISD released this week through an open records request shows Lowery and another woman, who the district said is not an employee or parent, walking into a dark library around 9 a.m. on August 2 while school was still out of session for summer break."

The Dallas Express has a piece on how Texas has decided to follow Montana's lead and leave the American Library Association. Under mounting pressure from a conservative Texas lawmaker, TSLAC (Texas Texas State Library and Archives Commission, which oversees library funding in the state) is cutting ties with ALA, despite the many benefits Texas libraries receive through ALA, because the current ALA president once referred to herself as a Marxist lesbian in a tweet (despite the ALA president has no decision-making power over the ALA or any library or librarian, and serves in a largely ceremonial role for just a 12-month term).

The Wyoming State Library has been a member of the American Library Association for 99 years and has benefited from professional development opportunities conferred by membership, as well as its advocacy for libraries and the profession on the national and global level.

And before we leave Texas, a reminder that a second hearing is set for Monday morning, August 28, in Austin over a motion to block Texas's book rating law from taking effect on September 1. As Publishers Weekly reported this week, the court held a hearing on August 18. Given some last minute filings, however, the court was not ready to rule on either a bid to block the law filed by coalition of booksellers, publishers, and authors, or a bid by the state to have the law dismissed. At the August 18 hearing, Judge Alan D. Albright said be did intend to rule on the motion to block the law from taking effect before its September 1 effective date. Stay tuned.

Wyoming also appears to also be angling to cut ties with ALA. Earlier this month, County 17 reported that conservative state lawmakers had been lobbying Wyoming governor Mark Gordon to pull the Wyoming State Library from ALA. Instead, InfoDocket shares that Wyoming state librarian Jamie Markus has written to ALA executive director Tracie Hall to open a dialogue about Wyoming's future in ALA. The letter is painfully parsed. It acknowledges all the benefits Wyoming libraries get from ALA membership, and that right wingers in the state really want to score some cheap political points with their base. "The Wyoming State Library has been a member of the American Library Association for 99 years and has benefited from professional development opportunities conferred by membership, as well as its advocacy for libraries and the profession on the national and global level. However, we have grown concerned that the ALA has become politicized," the letter reads.

In Louisiana, The Acadiana Advocate reports on the removal of Lafayette Public Library director Danny Gillane, allegedly for "undermining" the board. "Gillane was appointed library director in June 2021 after having served as interim director since February 2021. He was employed with the library system about 15 years," the report notes. "He replaced Teresa Elbeberson, who abruptly retired in January 2021 after months of conflict with some board members came to a head after she lined up two moderators the library board deemed too "far left" for a book discussion about voting rights." has a hot take on Gillane's dismissal, calling the drama "too pathetic for words." The editorial noted the library board's increasing right wing politicization. "We are left then to wonder if the board just decided on this summer surprise to gin up more controversy, to show that the story they are trying to write—about the need to protect children from librarians—had not quite reached its denouement. In this political season, it’s not hard to see why some would want to keep a wedge issue alive," the piece states. "We, however, can’t help but see it as a cynical anticlimax. We think most folks are tired of the drama and want our libraries to again function as oases for learning. Let’s finally close the book on the culture wars."

The Tampa Bay Times has a report this week that really puts the surge in book bans in perspective: "Most of Florida’s 67 school districts didn’t log a single formal complaint about a book," the paper reports, after conducting "the most comprehensive review of book complaints across the state." Of the 1,100 complaints in Florida since July 2022, more than 700 came from two counties that make up less than 3% of the state’s enrollment, and 600 came from just two people, the article notes. "The data illustrates how a tiny minority of activists across the state can overwhelm school districts while shaping the national conversation over what books belong on school library shelves."

In Pennsylvania, a TribLive piece looks also points out how a vocal minority is driving the book banning surge. "Over the past few years, Librarian Sharon Coronado has been tested by select patrons who oppose the presence of certain voices in books at Ligonier Valley Library, particularly the voices of people of color and LGBTQ individuals," the piece opens. "But Coronado, who has served as the library director for one year, said these interactions are few and far between. 'It’s a small number of people who are very loud,' Coronado said."

From Colorado Newsline, a really good report on how four books were challenged at the Douglas County libraries, and ultimately kept in the collection. "Jessica Fredrickson, a librarian since 2019 in the Denver metro area and co-creator of anti-censorship group Douglas County Freadom Defenders, presented a petition with almost 1,500 county resident signatures to the Board compelling them to take no action on the books, leaving them on the shelves," the report states. 'Just because you don’t agree with something doesn’t mean you get to silence it,' Fredrickson said during public comment. 'That is not what our country is about, or at least it shouldn’t be.'”

In Indiana, The Indy Star reports that the Hamilton East Public Library has now suspended its controversial program to review allegedly inappropriate books. "After weeks of intense controversy over the placement of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, leaders of the Hamilton East Public Library Board voted Thursday to suspend the collection development policy that led to Green’s novel and many more books being moved out of the teen section," the report states. "Library staff have spent months and hundreds of hours reviewing books by this policy’s definition. Library staff estimated in March the effort could cost about $300,000, although no updated figure has been shared publicly."

And, finally, from the Seattle Times, in sharp contrast to state librarians joining in or at least standing down while their leaders foment political attacks on librarians, Washington State Librarian Sara Jones offers a thoughtful editorial in defense of libraries and librarians.

"As librarians, we provide a collection. Individuals and parents make the decision of what to check out. We may suggest an age recommendation, but we believe the choice belongs with the patron, and that choice should not be made by one community member or a group for everyone in the community," Jones writes, bemoaning the surge in "personal attacks" on librarians. "The former director of the Columbia County Rural Library District was personally accused of being a groomer for standing up for the district’s library collection. The Walla Walla High School media specialist spent 15 months defending the school library against public outcries for removal of books, their dismissal and hostile board meetings. I have worked with hundreds of library workers in three states and these attacks are unwarranted, unfair and patently wrong. In fact, countless stories of librarians supporting children and families represent the truth of their service and dedication."

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Week in Libraries will be off next week ahead of the Labor Day weekend. However there will be a Preview for Librarians newsletter.

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