It's that time of year again: federal budget crunch time. And the American Library Association is once again asking library supporters to get involved. In its latest continuing resolution, congress set a March 22 deadline to approve a new FY2024 budget and keep the federal government open, the fourth stopgap enacted since FY2024 began last October. Now, library leaders are rallying supporters to contact their representatives in support of funding for libraries.

Federal funding for libraries is modest, but vital to libraries across the nation. For FY2024, library advocates have asked Congress to keep spending at least at FY2023 levels. In FY2023, Congress approved $211 million in LSTA funding (the Library Services and Technology Act, which makes up the bulk of federal library support) and $30 million for IAL (Innovative Approaches to Literacy, which is administered by the Department of Education). Supporters can learn more about support via the ALA's #FundLibraries campaign.

Meanwhile, even though the FY2024 budget situation is still in limbo, the FY2025 budget process is already about to get started, and ALA and library advocates from across the country were in Washington D.C. yesterday to remind lawmakers of the importance of funding libraries. In addition, ALA is urging advocates and library supporters to be vocal, and to tell Congress what their library has achieved for their community.

President Biden's full budget proposal for FY2025 will be released in the coming weeks. Library advocates can sign up for news and action opportunities to support library funding from ALA's advocacy team here, or follow along at LibraryPolicy.

PEN America has shared some more good news from the courts in 2024: the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals this week upheld an injunction blocking key provisions of Florida governor Ron DeSantis's controversial Stop WOKE Act. "Under Florida’s proposed standard, a government could ban riding on a parade float if it did not agree with the message on the banner. The government could ban pulling chairs into a circle for book clubs discussing disfavored books. And so on. The First Amendment is not so easily neutered,” the 11th Circuit ruled. "No matter how controversial the ideas, allowing the government to set the terms of the debate is poison, not antidote.” PEN officials said the decision comes at a critical time, as Florida lawmakers "are contemplating yet another educational censorship bill" that includes similar provisions as the Stop WOKE Act but in regards to educator preparation programs."

Right on time, EveryLibrary this week released a new EveryLibrary Institute "working draft" report titled "Divisive Politics and Threats to Academic Libraries." The draft is open for comment and engagement through April 18. "The academic library sector is approaching a critical moment when the attacks on public and school libraries are reaching campuses nationwide and states are radically changing the structure of higher ed by eliminating DEI at colleges and universities," the report opens. "As we look ahead to critical policy debates like the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, it is essential that library professionals not only react to changes but also anticipate and shape them."

Over at Book Riot, Kelly Jensen leads off her weekly censorship news roundup with an incisive take on censorship in higher education. "Texas outlawed DEI programs at all public universities, as did several other states," she writes. "In Florida, the dismantling of higher education has an incubator program at New College. Last year, the state’s governor implemented new leadership at the public liberal arts school, which included installing completely unqualified political agitators to the institution’s advisory board. Students and faculty reported on the chaos happening in the school to begin the 2023-24 academic year, and even more recently, the institution saw sanctions leveraged against it by the American Association of University Professors for standards violations. Only 12 other institutions have ever been given these sanctions over the last 30 years."

To take books away from these neighborhoods, where they are essentially the neighborhood library, it doesn’t make sense.

The Guardian has a report on what's going on in the city of Houston in the wake of a controversial plan to take over certain schools and repurpose the library space. "Brandie Dowda worked as the librarian at Burrus elementary school in Houston when she was informed last summer that she would be losing her position as the school changed to an NES school, which meant the library would be converted into a disciplinary center for students," the report notes. “To take books away from these neighborhoods, where they are essentially the neighborhood library, it doesn’t make sense. My heart broke for my Burrus kids. It was awful and heartbreaking,” Dowda told the Guardian.

Texas Public Radio reports that librarian Suzette Baker has filed a lawsuit against Llano County over her employment termination in 2022 after she was fired for refusing to remove books deemed as "pornographic" in her library. "Baker wanted to send a message that censorship will not be tolerated in Llano County. As a former diesel mechanic in the military who raised her children on a low-income budget, Baker said libraries were crucial in her children’s upbringing," the report notes. "You don't have to like the books in the library. I don't like some of the books in the library. I wouldn’t take them off the shelves though because it’s censorship,” she told reporters. Notably, Baker is represented by Iris Halpern, who recently won a similar case for Colorado librarian Brooky Parks.

In Wyoming, local affiliate 9 News has a report on another library director who was fired for not banning books, longtime Campbell County Public Library director Terri Lesley, who is also suing for wrongful termination and is also being represented by Iris Halpern. "I mean, it's unlawful," Halpern told reporters. "I mean, it's against the constitution—the problem is no one is thinking about the constitutionality of the actions that are being taken during these campaigns to suppress speech."

The Louisana Illuminator reports on the drama surrounding the St. Tammany library board. "State law requires parish library board members to serve staggered terms. For more than 20 years, St. Tammany hasn’t complied with the requirement. Councilman David Cougle put forward a proposal to remedy that and potentially address his long-standing complaints against the board," the report explains, adding that Cougle has been "actively involved in contentious library battles," including with a conservative organization, the St. Tammany Library Accountability Project, "in its attempt to ban more than 150 books it deemed sexually explicit." Activists who often appeared alongside Cougle at library board meetings spoke in favor of removing board members.

Also in Louisiana, the Advocate reports on a bill advancing that would expose educators and librarians to charges for distributing allegedly obscene materials.

And finally this week, American Libraries has mini profiles of the two excellent candidates for ALA president. Good luck to Sam Helmick, and to Raymond Pun.

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.