The Montana Free Press reports this week that, despite widespread opposition, the state library commission has voted to strike the requirement that directors of the the state's largest libraries have an MLIS degree.

"The commission’s striking of the educational standard from state regulations came after a month-long comment period during which 532 members of the public responded to the proposal. Of those, 120 supported the elimination and 412 opposed it—a ratio that critics attempted to underscore for the commission ahead of its vote," the article states. "The debate over the education standard followed another controversial move by the state library commission this summer: the withdrawal of the Montana State Library from membership in the American Library Association. Commissioners said the move was due to concerns about the ALA president’s political beliefs, even as critics from public libraries throughout the state cautioned that the move could limit access to critical services."

As independent journalist Judd Legum reports at Popular Information, a number of outlets this week are picking up on an amicus brief filed over the summer by Florida Attorney general Ashley Moody in a lawsuit over the removal of books from school library shelves in Escambia County. "In an extraordinary filing earlier this year," Legum writes, "Florida argues that the purpose of public school libraries is to 'convey the government’s message,' and that can be accomplished through 'the removal of speech that the government disapproves.' The issue of what books are allowed to be carried by school libraries, Florida states, should be settled at the 'ballot box.' According to the state's filing, public school libraries are 'not a forum for free expression.'"

If government speech determines what books can be in the library, the government is essentially saying your children can only see the ideas that the government has approved. That’s not parental rights...That’s authoritarianism.”

A report in the Tallahassee Democrat puts Moody's "government speech" argument into proper political perspective. “There’s considerable irony in that those who seek to limit access to books in school libraries often say they’re fighting for parental rights,” Ken Paulson, director of the Free Speech Center at Middle Tennessee State University, told the paper. “If government speech determines what books can be in the library, the government is essentially saying your children can only see the ideas that the government has approved. That’s not parental rights...That’s authoritarianism.”

Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that most librarians and library workers at the Multnomah County libraries do not feel safe in their jobs. "Overdoses. Stabbings. Sexual harassment. Hate speech. For employees at Multnomah County libraries, workplace concerns go beyond late fees and damaged books," the report notes. "An audit of the county’s library system published Thursday found that nearly 75% of surveyed library staff who work directly with the public don’t feel safe at their job. The audit, which reviewed the past two fiscal years, also identified areas in which the library system may be violating Oregon workplace safety rules."

The Wisconsin Examiner has a lengthy report on a hearing for a GOP-backed bill in Wisconsin that would expose librarians and teachers to prosecution for making allegedly inappropriate materials available to minors. "AB-308 would remove protections for school and library staff against being prosecuted for providing 'obscene' materials to minors," the article states. "One day after the Assembly education committee hearing on the bill, Dr. Jill Underly, the state superintendent of public instruction, expressed concern about increased attacks on libraries and schools on X, formerly known as Twitter. 'At this moment in our history, we need spaces to engage with new ideas and our history,' Underly wrote in a post on Wednesday. 'We need it in the face of hate and increased threats and attempts at silencing. Libraries are a bastion of freedom of thought, expression, and creativity.'”

Over Book Riot, Kelly Jensen leads off her weekly censorship column by looking at the year's trends in book banning and offering some insightful, important observations. "While bigotry and power are two key themes of why censors are targeting books, one thing we should be looking at and addressing by name is this: there is a lot of money to be made with book bans."

From ALA this week comes the release of a new report on "The Digital Public Library Ecosystem." Authored by Portland State University professors Rachel Noorda and Kathi Inman Berens, the 23-page paper aims to offer "a comprehensive overview of the current state and operations of the Digital Public Library Ecosystem, including an introduction to the relationships and roles of the many stakeholders: authors, agents, publishers, distributors, library community, governments, and trade organizations." It's a solid report that returns to some long-running questions in the digital lending arena.

Also in the library e-book space, advocacy group Fight for the Future has released an open letter with 25 human rights organizations calling on Congress to investigate "Big Tech and Publishing's overreaching control of the content, reader data, and existence" of digital books. "For centuries, people have read books without being surveilled, wondering if what they’re reading is what the author wrote, or worrying that their book might disappear," the letter reads. "These rights parallel a long history of battles to protect the right to read anonymously as well as to resist censorship and combat exclusion in publishing. With the increasing popularity of digital books, such battles have entered a new, much more opaque playing field."

And finally this week, with LibLearnX 2024 fast approaching, ALA this week announced an addition to its LLX speaker program: author and activist George M. Johnson, whose debut memoir, All Boys Aren’t Blue, was a major bestseller...and the second-most banned book of 2022 in the United States, according to the ALA. After its in-person debut in New Orleans this past January, LibLearnX 2024 is set to run from January 19-22 in Baltimore.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This week's column will be the the last of 2023, though there will be a newsletter next week, 12/15.

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.