A somewhat abbreviated version this week as we're off to the American Library Association’s second in-person LibLearnX conference, which is now underway in a very snowy Baltimore. The show gets rolling this evening with a welcome reception, at which the 2023 I Love My Librarian Award winners will be honored. The main speaker program kicks off bright and early Saturday morning at 8 a.m., with journalist Michele Norris keynoting. Norris is the author of the just-published Our Hidden Conversations: What Americans Really Think About Race and Identity.
The first in-person LibLearnX in 2023 drew modest numbers compared to its predecessor, ALA’s long-running Midwinter Meeting, but delivered much of what ALA membership asked for when the association began rethinking its winter event back in 2018—fewer meetings, more educational offerings and learning opportunities, and more time to connect with peers. It remains to be determined whether that's something this year's event can build on.
As reported in Publishers Weekly, freedom to read advocates notched a key win this week as the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision to block key provisions of Texas's controversial book rating law. The litigation continues, but for now, the state is barred from forcing vendors to review and rate books. Texas representative Jared Patterson, author of the law, is urging the state to appeal the Fifth Circuit decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, and has vowed to seek new ways to impose “vendor accountability” in the next legislative session.
IdahoEdNews reports that the Idaho legislature is winding up to introduce a new “harmful to minors” law after a previous version was shot down. "The move came just three days after the House State Affairs Committee cleared House Bill 384, which would force libraries to place challenged books in adults-only sections or face civil liability. Most comments from the public opposed the bill during a hearing Monday.” The site reports that the Idaho Library Association “has been invited to collaborate on a new bill.”
Also in IdahoEdNews, a report on how students and librarians are push back against one Idaho high school’s book removal policies. “When Olivia Lanzara needs solace, she heads to her school library to lose herself in a book. On one such occasion, she checked out a fantasy series by Sarah J. Maas. The books’ ‘powerful female main character’ who perseveres against the odds inspired and uplifted the Rocky Mountain High junior. Last month, two of those books were among 10 quietly pulled from West Ada school library shelves after a private meeting among administrators. ‘It made me feel really helpless,’ Lanzara said.”
In Alabama, the local Cullman Times reports on a ‘pre-filed’ bill that would allow library board members to be fired by politicians at will. “SB10, which was pre-filed by Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Baldwin County), states, ‘Each library board member shall be appointed to a four-year term and shall serve at the pleasure of their respective appointing authority and may be removed at any time by a majority vote of the appointing authority.’ The bill follows the almost year-long campaign of the Prattville-based ‘parental rights’ group, Clean Up Alabama, to remove books containing LGBT content and characters from public libraries across the state.”
In Michigan, the Kalamazoo Public Library is closing a location at the Douglass Community Association after the DCA issued new security protocols that the library says violate user privacy rights. “The DCA recently adopted new security protocols that require guests to be admitted electronically through locked entrances during open business hours and sign in and out during their visit,” a KPL press release explains. “While Kalamazoo Public Library respects the DCA’s right to determine security protocols for their facilities, requiring library patrons to adhere to the new security protocols to access the library presents a service barrier and infringes on patrons’ right to privacy protected by the Michigan Library Privacy Act (Act 455 of 1982).”
The Guardian reports that some in government are taking note of the frighteningly steep decline of U.K. public libraries in recent years. “An independent review of libraries in England has found a ‘lack of recognition’ across government and a 'lack of awareness”'among the general public of what libraries have to offer,” the report states. “The review proposes the creation of a libraries minister, the establishment of a libraries laureate and a branding campaign to raise awareness of the role of libraries, among other recommendations.”
And finally this week, over at Book Riot Kelly Jensen leads off her must-read weekly censorship roundup with the third in a series of posts exploring three recent surveys conducted by Book Riot and the EveryLibrary Institute on parental perceptions of libraries and librarians. The post is a powerful primer on library advocacy.
“Social media has made it much easier for those both inside and outside the world of the library to pontificate about libraries,” Jensen writes. “This includes their purpose, their goals, whether they’re being well-used or have died off in the age of instant access to Google, and more. Many times, real systemic issues—such as the lack of affordable options for child entertainment in a society that is openly hostile toward kids and parents—are at the heart. The problem is that libraries are not a catchall, nor can they be. They have a purpose, and it’s one that needs to continue being championed.”