It was a busy week for the American Library Association, with the release of its annual book banning data showing another alarming spike in book challenges. As we reported in Publishers Weekly, the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom found that the number of unique titles targeted for censorship surged 65% in 2023 compared to 2022, once again hitting record levels.

In a release, ALA officials said that 4,240 unique book titles were reported challenged in schools and libraries in 2023, a sharp increase over 2022, when 2,571 unique titles were targeted for removal. “The reports from librarians and educators in the field make it clear that the organized campaigns to ban books aren’t over,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.

What does appear to be over, however, is the ALA's LibLearnX conference. As PW also reported, just weeks after the conclusion of its 2024 conference in Baltimore, the ALA executive board announced that it will cease its conference in 2026. The 2025 conference set for Phoenix will go ahead as planned, but that will be it.

A conference that had been years in the making, LibLearnX was designed to take the place of ALA’s long-running Midwinter Meeting, but the effort was clearly impacted by the Covid-19 crisis. The inaugural LibLearnX, which had been set for San Antonio, Tex., in January 2022, was forced to go virtual, hardly an ideal start. Despite modest attendance, however, many librarians told PW the first in-person LibLearnX events in many ways delivered exactly what ALA membership had asked for when the association began reimagining the future of the ALA Midwinter Meeting years ago: fewer meetings, more educational offerings, an engaging speaker program for attendees, and more time to connect with peers.

Meanwhile, from the Baltimore Sun (apologies if this is paywalled) some potentially good news for libraries and freedom to read advocates from the state of Maryland: the state’s bill to guard against book bans is progressing. “The Freedom to Read Act, which Democrats in the Maryland General Assembly are gunning to pass in the legislative session’s final weeks, would set a statewide standard for some content in libraries for the first time,” the report notes.

In New Jersey, reports on a similar bill that is also moving. Also dubbed the Freedom to Read Act, "the bill would require school and public library boards to create policies regarding which books should be in school libraries and how books may be removed, as well as prohibit dissenters from suing librarians over the reading options made available in accordance with those policies."

The Idaho Capital Sun reports that Idaho lawmakers are advancing a bill that would expose librarians and educators to criminal charges for sharing material deemed to be harmful to minors. "House Bill 710 follows years of attempts by the Idaho legislature to regulate materials in Idaho libraries," the report states. "The Idaho House approved House Bill 712 on a 47-23 vote, with 12 House Republicans joining all 11 House Democrats in opposition."

What has taken place during the past several days at the Autauga-Prattville Public Library is a travesty that should frighten every Alabama resident. reports on a shocking escalation in Alabama, where the Autauga-Prattville Library Board has fired the library’s director, Andrew Foster, as well as several staff members who walked out in protest. "His termination occurred three days after Alabama Political Reporter published a story that included documents showing Foster pushing back against the board’s list of books to be banned for children," the site reports.

EveryLibrary this week issued a statement on Foster's firing and launched an advocacy campaign with Read Freely Alabama and Prattville First Amendment Defense Group. "The Autauga-Prattville Alabama Library board fired the library director for refusing to deny the public access to 113 books. This decision was made following his objections to a new board policy that prohibited the purchase of books for children under the age of 17 that included themes related to sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender discordance. That policy is a direct attack on the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals and their families to use their library fully," the statement reads. "EveryLibrary, along with Read Freely Alabama and the Prattville First Amendment Defense Group, urgently call on the Prattville City Council, Mayor, and the Autauga County Commission to immediately rescind the firing of Library Director Andrew Foster and the four staff members."

Alabama Library Association president Matthew Layne has also released a statement on the situation. "What has taken place during the past several days at the Autauga-Prattville Public Library is a travesty that should frighten every Alabama resident," Layne said. "The termination of Library Director Andrew Foster and members of his professional staff is an unjust, politically motivated attack on the livelihood of individuals who did nothing wrong, and undermines this library’s capacity for properly, effectively serving the public. Further, it’s a frightening example of what could happen at public libraries across our state. As a lifelong Alabama resident, I know this is unequivocally not what our state’s residents want."

In Florida, Popular Information's Judd Legum offers his take on the news this week that the state of Florida has agreed to settle a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Parental Rights in Education Act, better known as the "Don't Say Gay" law. "The settlement was a resounding victory for the parents and LGBTQ advocacy groups who filed the lawsuit," Legum writes. "The only aspect of the law that remains is a prohibition on classroom instruction about 'sexual orientation' and 'gender identity.' Per the terms of the settlement, an example of this would be 'teaching an overview of modern gender theory.' This is not something that happens very often, if at all, in K-12 education. Critically, the Florida Department of Education is required to distribute this new guidance to every school district in Florida to ensure they understand the limits of the law. Equality Florida, which was part of the lawsuit, called the settlement 'a landmark achievement in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights in Florida.'"

And finally this week, Book Riot's Kelly Jensen leads off her weekly censorship news column with a very handy guide to all the state legislation intended to protect libraries. It's a bit of bright spot, even where the bills are not moving, as it shows that freedom to read advocates are at least in the legislative ball game. "A key theme you'll see is that most of these bills were not shot down due to political reasons," she writes. "They simply did not make it through the session itself. That sets many of them up as priorities for the next legislative session."