It's been quite a year for the ALA and this year's ALA president, Emily Drabinksi, who have faced attacks by right wing politicians in a number of states. But as reported in Publishers Weekly, the ALA had something to celebrate this week, accepting the Toni Morrison Achievement Award from the National Book Critics Circle at an awards ceremony this week. The award, established in 2021 to honor novelist Toni Morrison, is given annually to "an institution that has, over time, made significant contributions to book culture."

"This award honors library workers across the country—in institutions large and small, in big urban centers like this one, in small rural communities in Alabama—who make the American library as an institution the bulwark of inclusive democracy that it is," Drabinski said in accepting the award.

In addition, another defender of the freedom to read was honored by the NBCC at this year's ceremony: author Judy Blume, who received the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award. "I'm thrilled to know that you're also honoring ALA tonight, because every day I thank them for their tireless work in protecting our intellectual freedoms," Blume said in her speech.

In Alabama, the attacks on libraries continue to escalate. reports on a proposed new law, HB89, that would appoint the board members of a lone Alabama library system instead of allowing the independent district select the board through elections. "The North Shelby Public Library is the only system in Alabama not formed or maintained under a city council or county commission," the report notes, adding that the legislation "follows months of book challenges and concerns about 'inappropriate content' for children in public libraries statewide."

In a statement shared with PW, Alabama Library Association president Matthew Layne blasted the bill. "The North Shelby Library Board was created at the ballot box by residents and those same residents should retain their right to amend their policies, not the politicians in Montgomery," Layne said. “From one end of Alabama to the other, folks are tired of Montgomery politicians trying to score political points by stirring up angry debates. They very definitely don’t want their libraries becoming political battlegrounds.”

The Montgomery Advertiser has more on the controversy at the Autauga-Prattville Library over the firing of its director Andrew Foster. "A week after the Autauga-Prattville Library Board of Trustees fired director Andrew Foster, controversy still swirls around the board’s actions and questions remain about what actions, if any, opponents of the move can take against the board," the article states. One imagines lawyer Iris Halpern is keeping an eye on this one.

The Alabama Political Reporter reports that Autauga-Prattville Public Library board chair Ray Boles, who was part of the effort to fire Foster, went on a right-wing radio show to share details about the board’s actions. It's an eye-opening report, to put it mildly, and one that could form the basis for a fascinating deposition.

Those who have asked for book bans have never been on the right side of history.

Minnesota Public Radio reports that a "freedom to read" bill that would seek to curb book bans has now been introduced in the Minnesota Legislature. Governor Tim Walz strongly backs the bill, the report notes. "Those who have asked for book bans have never been on the right side of history, they have never been viewed as being the folks that were the heroes of freedom, they have never been viewed as the people that were looking out for others," Walz told reporters. "Trying to tell someone else’s children that they can’t read The Hobbit, or whatever it might be, you’re in the wrong."

Over at Book Riot, Kelly Jensen leads off her weekly censorship news column with a very useful look at common misconceptions around book bans, especially among those who support the freedom to read "Misconceptions about book bans are legion," she writes. "When they’re perpetrated by folks who are against book banning, the truth is, those myths emerge not out of evil or desire to misinform. Instead, they come because this moment in book bans is unlike any other in American history."

Local affiliate KHSB in Kansas City reports that its library is facing a potential revenue shortfall from a proposed plan to build new stadiums for the Chiefs and the Royals.

And finally this week, the Texas Tribune offers a deep dive on how libraries in Texas are bridging the mental health divide. "Texas is a state where 98% of its 254 counties are designated as Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas, areas where there’s only 1 clinician for 30,000 residents, and the state’s behavioral health worker shortage is expected to grow," the report notes. "According to a 2023 state progress report to the Legislature, there are 5,031 licensed psychologists available in the state. But only 111 counties–less than half of the state’s 254 counties–have one, and only 83 counties have a psychiatrist."

Seems like this should be an issue of greater importance to legislators than banning books, doesn't it?

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.