With LibLearnX 2024 in the books, next up on the library conference calendar is the biannual Public Library Association conference, set for April 3–5 in Columbus, Ohio. PLA has become perhaps the most popular conference among librarians, with the last PLA conference in March 2022 exceeded expectations, drawing nearly 5,000 in-person attendees to Portland, Ore. And early reports are that this year's PLA is gearing up to be big one.
Featured PLA speakers announced thus far include award-winning author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates, author and Columbia University professor Mary Annaïse Heglar, and comedian and author Dulcé Sloan. And as usual, the conference will offer more than 100 education sessions and an exhibits hall. You can view the full PLA program and register here. And look for our PLA preview in the March 18 issue of Publishers Weekly.
AL.com reports that the agency overseeing the state's public libraries has proposed new rules that would "force libraries to move books deemed 'inappropriate' for children" in order to qualify for state funding. "These changes echo recommendations made by Gov. Kay Ivey after she expressed concerns about inappropriate materials for children in public libraries," the report notes. Furthermore, the rules take aim at the American Library Association, requiring that "any expenditure of public funds" to ALA "must be approved by the governing board of the public library or public library system in an open, public meeting following advance public notice.”
The Alabama Political Reporter reports on a counterproposal to the new library rules from the Alabama Library Association (ALLA). "The major difference between Ivey’s proposed changes and ALLA’s is a section by the librarians declaring libraries cannot stand in place of parents on deciding what content is suitable for minors."
Meanwhile, local affiliate WSFA reports that the Alabama Public Library Service has officially voted to not renew its membership with the American Library Association, but even that is not enough for right wing groups in the state. "Hannah Reese with Clean Up Alabama says ending a membership is not enough. She’s calling for a complete disaffiliation from the ALA," the report notes.
In Georgia, local affiliate 11 Alive reports on two new bills also targeting libraries and ALA. "Two bills are making their way through the Georgia State Senate, and both pieces of legislation are sponsored by Republican lawmakers. First, SB390 would loosen restrictions on librarian certification and cut funding to any programs tied to the American Library Association. Twenty-two GOP state senators are behind the bill," the report notes. "Supporters of SB390 say ALA's leadership believes in 'Marxist' ideology and taxpayers should not have to support them." Another bill, SB394, "would require the state board of education to establish standards for school books, as well as define what material might be construed as harmful to minors, restricted materials, and sexually explicit" and calls for "a ratings system to be implemented to determine how explicit a book may be." Because that idea worked out so well for Texas.
In Tennessee, 10News reports that lawmakers are also debating a bill that would restrict access to library materials for minors. "HB 1661...would allow people to sign a petition that could restrict books, video games, pamphlets, magazines and more in public libraries if it is believed they are harmful to minors," the report notes.
NPR reports on how one Texas teacher maintained a secret bookshelf of banned books for students. "The secret bookshelf began in late 2021, when then-state Rep. Matt Krause sent public schools a list of 850 books he wanted banned from schools. They might, he said, 'make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex,' " the report notes. "That made this teacher furious. 'The books that make you uncomfortable are the books that make you think,' she told NPR. 'Isn't that what school is supposed to do? It's supposed to make you think?' "
Over at Book Riot, Kelly Jensen leads off her weekly censorship roundup with her take on American intolerance. "Intolerance permeates parental perceptions of book bans," she writes, adding that "2 out of 5 parents—43%—do not agree that books should reflect diverse experiences. When you combine outright disagreement with parents who only somewhat agree with that sentiment, 75% of parents do not believe in the necessity of diverse books. That is an astounding—and incredibly chilling—percentage."
In New Mexico, the Silver City Press reports that rural library funding in the southern part of the state appears to be in limbo. "Their small population bases and often high poverty rates mean there’s not a lot of money to fund their community libraries, important hubs that serve roles well beyond book lending," the report notes. "It’s against this backdrop that a grassroots effort sprang up in recent years to provide a creative, perpetual source of funding for more than 50 of these small, rural libraries across New Mexico, including in the south. And, while the initiative—set up as an endowment—is off to a robust start thanks to legislative allocations in previous years, the Legislature’s initial budget for the session that started Jan. 16 didn’t include any additional funding for the measure."
And finally this week, more good work from EveryLibrary. The national political action committee for libraries has launched the Libraries2024 Initiative, "a new voter-facing campaign to promote issue advocacy and civic education about school libraries, public libraries, and the profession of librarianship in advance of Election Days throughout the 2024 cycle."
In a release, EveryLibrary cited the "attacks on our democracy embedded in the rise of censorship" of books and library materials. "Now more than ever, it is important for citizens to be acutely aware of the issues surrounding the First Amendment and be prepared to take actions to protect against threats to essential freedoms," a release notes.