Right wing political attacks on librarians and the American Library Association have not deterred librarians and the ALA from staying focused on their work. In a release this week, the ALA reported that at the recently concluded LibLearnX conference in Baltimore, the ALA Council approved five new "core values," focusing on "access, equity, intellectual freedom and privacy, the public good, and sustainability."
In the release, the ALA explains that the association's core values "uplift and support other foundational documents of the American Library Association, including: the Library Bill of Rights, the Code of Ethics, and Libraries: An American Value" and "articulate the profession’s principles and highest aspirations." The ALA's core values also serve as the foundation for accreditation of master's degree Programs in Library and Information Science.
“This is a crucial moment for our profession, as our library community faces severe challenges and threats," said ALA Council co-chair Erin Berman during the meeting at LibLearnX. "Our proposed Core Values are designed to navigate these tumultuous times and into a brighter future.”
Speaking of right wing attacks on libraries, a blog post from EveryLibrary points out that a candidate for secretary of state in Missouri, Valentina Gomez, recently posted a video of her using a flamethrower to burn public library books as part of her campaign. "Gomez is leaning on the current radical, far-right talking point that libraries are spaces where children are being groomed," the post notes. "What might be even more absurd, or perhaps frightening, about Gomez’s display is the underlying motivation. She burned books with a flamethrower on social media while running for a public office. That inherently suggests she thinks that burning books will help her win the election." The post notes that Gomez's video was labeled "hateful content" on X.
Also in Missouri, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports on a hearing this week in the state legislature on a proposal, which the library community opposes, to turn the state's public library boards into elected positions instead of appointed ones. "Under legislation sponsored by Rep. Tony Lovasco, R-O’Fallon, the boards that oversee libraries would be chosen for two-year terms by voters in November elections," the report notes. "Margaret Perkins McGuinness of the Kansas City Public Library decried the level of politics that has enveloped libraries in recent years, with fights over the content of books and efforts by Republicans to defund libraries. 'Such a bill would create a highly politicized library board,' McGuinness said."
In Iowa, the local Gazette reports on a hearing this week over a state bill that would "bring partisan political decision-making into library operations, including book selection." Under House Study Bill 678, city councils would be given expanded power to make library decisions. According to the report, "Dozens of public library officials and supporters from across the state crammed into a small room in the Iowa Capitol to express their staunch opposition to the proposed legislation, which would eliminate the requirement that a city’s voters approve any 'proposal to alter the composition, manner of selection or charge of a library board,' or its replacement."
In Tennessee, WPLN News reports on how book bans have expanded to public libraries, and why. “I’m scared. I’m scared for my friends,” one resident told WPLN reporters. “Our school board meetings are very contentious. Our county commission meetings can be very contentious. At one point, I feel as though people could sit down and have conversations about things. But we’re at a point now where there are no more. There aren’t conversations.”
In Idaho, the Capital Sun reports that a new "harmful to minors" bill is moving forward, after the governor vetoed a bill passed last year. The "main difference" between earlier proposed legislation and the bill introduced this week, the report notes, is that "under the current bill, a patron must adhere to the procedures outlined in the bill first before gaining the right to sue a library.... If a patron finds a child has access to an item previously deemed 'harmful to minors' under a decision from the committee or board, then a patron could sue a library for $250 in statutory damages as well as actual damages and any other relief."
Over at Book Riot, Kelly Jensen begins her weekly censorship news column with a look at how a media landscape now fueled by engagement algorithms is helping to fuel the rise of book bans. "A shift to cover the most outlandish has been crucial, not because the stories are important or impact the lives of a community. They’re crucial because they solicit the engagement those outlets need in order to even get their work out there," she writes. "The second big outcome of the shift to algorithms is that echo chambers online have gotten even bigger."
The New York Times has a piece this week on how librarians, "cast as criminals" amid a years-long right wing political attack, are rising to their own defense. "During 12 years as a youth librarian in northern Idaho, Denise Neujahr read to and befriended children of many backgrounds. Devout or atheist, gay or straight, all were welcome until a November evening in 2021, when about two dozen teens arriving at the Post Falls library for a meeting of the 'Rainbow Squad' encountered a commotion at the entrance. Members of a local church waved signs with images of hellfire and used a bullhorn to shout Bible verses and accusations about sin and pedophile 'groomers' in the library," the article states. "As America’s libraries have become noisy and sometimes dangerous new battlegrounds in the nation’s culture wars, librarians like Ms. Neujahr and their allies have moved from the stacks to the front lines."
And finally this week, Torrent Freak reports on a fascinating lawsuit filed by OCLC against a shadow library search engine, Anna's Archive, for scraping WorldCat's voluminous records.
"The complaint accuses Washington citizen Maria Dolores Anasztasia Matienzo and several 'John Does' of operating the search engine and scraping WorldCat data. The scraping is equated to a cyberattack by OCLC and started around the time Anna’s Archive launched," the report notes. "Among other claims, the defendants stand accused of breach of contract, unjust enrichment, tortious interference of contract and business relationships, trespass to chattels, and conversion of property. As compensation for OCLC’s reported injuries, the company seeks damages, including compensatory, exemplary, and punitive damages."
Over at InfoDocket, OCLC has posted a clarifying point on the suit. "To be clear, OCLC internal systems were not penetrated; however, under Ohio law, the actions of Anna’s Archive are considered 'hacking.' OCLC continues to take all appropriate actions needed to ensure that we defend WorldCat to protect the collaborative service developed and maintained with and for libraries worldwide."