As we reported in Publishers Weekly this week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has set November 29 to hear oral arguments in Texas's appeal of federal judge Alan D. Albright's decision to enjoin HB 900, the state's controversial book rating law. Meanwhile, because of a questionable (and unexplained) decision to leave an administrative stay in place (which was not decided on the merits), the law is now in effect, despite being found unconstitutional, leaving Texas booksellers, as well as schools and libraries in the state, in a precarious position.
Meanwhile, a joint report from The Texas Tribune and ProPublica suggests that the law is already having an impact on schools and school libraries. "As a new Texas law further restricting what books students can check out of school libraries takes effect, local bans are gaining steam in districts across the state—in some cases going in startling directions," the report notes, pointing out that in the Houston suburb of Katy, school officials recently bought $93,000 worth of new library books and promptly put them in storage so an internal committee could review them. "The district then banned 14 titles (bringing its total since 2021 to 30), including popular books by Dr. Seuss and Judy Blume, as well as No, David! an award-winning children’s book featuring a mischievous cartoon character who at one point jumps out of a bathtub, exposing a cartoon backside."
In Montana, the Flathead Beacon has a lengthy report on the Montana State Library (MSL) Commission voting to remove a state requirement that library directors serving larger systems have a master’s degree in library science. "In the 5-2 vote to lift the standard, commissioners cited a desire to bolster local control by giving library trustees, and county and city officials, the ability to determine their own requirements," the report states. "Susan Gregory, director of the Bozeman Public Library, said that removing the requirement of a professional degree devalued the profession.” The draft rule is subject to a 30-day public comment period.
In the Guardian, Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle sounds the alarm on the threats facing libraries. "The U.S. library system, once the model for the world, is under assault from politicians, right wing activists, and corporate publishers. Book bans are at record levels, and libraries across the country are facing catastrophic budget cuts, a fate only narrowly avoided by New York City’s public libraries this summer. In a separate line of attack, library collections are being squeezed by draconian licensing deals, and even sued to stop lending digitized books," Kahle writes. "Why are libraries under attack in the United States? We can talk about the rise of authoritarianism, and theories of empires in decline. But today, practically, it comes down to whether the public will defend an institution that has helped us so much as a society. Will we fight to support and defend universal education and equitable access to information–or stand by as some politicians and powerful corporations take deadly aim against those long-cherished values?"
In Illinois, The Chicago Tribune reports that a suspect has been arrested in connection with bomb threats made to a public libraries as well as other "businesses, suburban governments, and at least one police station" over the last seven weeks. Police say they are still investigating other threats.
Also in Illinois, the Shaw Local News Network reports that a local school board is wrestling with the state's new anti-book banning law. "Board President Andy Bittman, who called the law 'political popcorn' at a Thursday evening board meeting, said he was concerned about the strings attached to the funding, particularly whether they would limit the district’s ability to restrict what students can access on the internet."
Via the Arkansas Advocate, Tess Vrbin reports that a Saline County judge has fired Patty Hector, director of the county library, after she refused to move books deemed inappropriate by the local quorum court to a restricted section. "The all-Republican Saline County Quorum Court recommended in April that the library 'relocate materials that are not subject-matter or age appropriate' for children," Vrbin reports. "Hector became the target of conservative ire earlier this year when she refused to follow the quorum court’s recommendation. She told the quorum court in May that 'there is nothing wrong with' the books in question."
Vrbin also reports this week on the annual meeting of the the Arkansas Library Association (ArLA), a chapter of the American Library Association, which promises to be lively given all that's happening in the state. "The ArLA conference schedule includes discussions about the history of censorship in libraries, including attacks on LGBTQ+ subject matter," she reports. "The conference as a whole will not focus on these issues, but they have had an impact on librarians’ morale across the state, said Carol Coffey, the ArLA president and the Patron Experience and Library Analytics Coordinator for the Central Arkansas Library System."
At Book Riot, Kelly Jensen returns to her weekly censorship news roundup, and starts by diving into the survey conducted with EveryLibrary, which includes this eye-opener: "fully one quarter of respondents believed librarians should be prosecuted for giving children access to materials," she writes, adding that people "who do not know how librarians select material" are much more likely to also believe librarians should be prosecuted for sharing it. "This is chilling, to say the least. It’s also an important point to emphasize for library workers. Where and how do you educate your patrons about the process behind the acquisition of books, movies, and other collection items? If this demographic who somewhat or wholly believes librarians should be prosecuted for materials is your average or above average user, there is a lot of opportunity—maybe even necessity—for education."
EveryLibrary, the national political action committee for libraries, reports that it has been working to secure endorsements from the major national political parties for the right to read in libraries, and (apologies for burying the lede) that the Democratic National Committee unanimously passed a “Resolution Regarding the Support of First Amendment Rights and Public Libraries” at its annual meeting last week in St. Louis. In the post, John Chrastka, executive director of EveryLibrary, said that the Libertarian National Party "declined to consider its resolution on procedural grounds," and expressed hope that the RNC and Green Party might consider resolutions as well.
And finally this week, via the Dallas Morning News, a lovely library story from Texas, about how the Saginaw public library's adult education program has helped change lives—and become so popular through "word-of-mouth alone" that it now has led to a waitlist of more than 40.
"Immigrants from over 30 countries have found the library to be a place that teaches not only English but also Texas culture. Between stacks of books and collections of magazines and newspapers, they learn what it means to be an American and how to have confidence learning a new language," the report shares. "Every time a student from a new country joins the library, the staff adds a flag to a collection that decorates the hallway. The yellow, blue and red of Colombia blend into the red, blue, black and white of South Korea."