It's almost here: Next week, the 2024 Public Library Association conference gets underway in Columbus, Ohio, and by all accounts, it's expected to be a well-attended, energetic event. If you're heading to the show, you can check out Publishers Weekly's PLA conference preview. The conference is set to run from April 3-5. The PLA conference website has all the info you need, and there's still time to register. PW will be there.

Meanwhile, the Public Library Association (PLA) announced today that bestselling author Shola Richards, founder and CEO of “Go Together,” will now open the PLA 2024 Conference, replacing Joy Buolamwini, who will no longer be able to keynote "due to unforeseen circumstances."

Editor's Note: While there will be a Preview for Librarians newsletter next Friday, April 5, there will be no The Week in Libraries Column next week due to the PLA conference. The column will return the following week.

Some good news for freedom to read advocates this week from the Seattle Times, which reports on Washington state's passage of a bill intended to safeguard public libraries. "The legislation, which passed both the House and Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support and was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee Tuesday, comes in response to a push last year to close the only library in rural Columbia County," the report states. "The new law will make such attempts much more difficult, requiring more signatures to get potential shutdowns on the ballot and then allowing a broader population of voters to decide a library’s fate."

NBC News, meanwhile, has a piece that sounds a note of caution on some the state bills that are designed to stop book banners by targeting library funding as a compliance mechanism. "The rise in book bans has prompted lawmakers to push back with bills in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and New Mexico," the report states. "They follow Illinois and California, where such legislation has been signed into law. Experts are raising concerns, however, as some of the legislation would fine school districts or withhold library funding if their provisions are not followed, such as in Illinois and California. The enforcement measures could especially be a threat to public schools and libraries that are underfunded and understaffed."

The villainization of the American Library Association is something that perplexes most librarians.

In Nebraska, local affiliate KOLN/KGIN 1011 reports that Nebraska lawmakers failed to advance LB 441, a bill that would have exposed K-12 school officials or librarians to criminal prosecution for making allegedly obscene content available. "LB 441 represented a 'thinly veiled attempt to ban books' and weaponize criminal law against teachers and librarians," State Sen. Danielle Conrad of Lincoln argued in defeating the measure, adding that it was time to "send a definitive statement that we support free expression and free speech, even when we find content disagreeable.”

In Louisiana, the local Louisiana Illuminator has a good piece on the ongoing legislative efforts in the state targeting libraries and the freedom to read. "With veto-proof majorities in both legislative chambers and the backing of a new governor, some Louisiana Republicans are taking aim at public libraries with legislation that could criminalize librarians," the article notes, such as a bill that would force public libraries, including parish and university libraries, to cut ties with the ALA and would prohibit state funds from being used to send librarians to ALA conferences. "The villainization of the American Library Association is something that perplexes most librarians. 'I’m not sure exactly what these people think go on at ALA conferences,' Suzanne Stauffer, an LSU library and information science professor said in an interview. 'It’s workshops about how to better meet the needs of their community.' Michael Lunsford, a conservative activist who frequently targets the ALA, thinks otherwise...Lunsford described the American Library Association as a 'Marxist' organization out to fundamentally change U.S. society."

In her weekly censorship news column for Book Riot, Kelly Jensen has a cogent look at some of the ways public libraries are under attack beyond book bans. "The destruction of public institutions remains at the core of the agenda, but when it comes to public libraries, things look different because they are different institutions than public schools."

The Alabama Political Reporter writes on the ongoing havoc continues at the Autauga-Prattville Public Library with another firing. This one sounds particularly harsh. Assistant Director Kaitlin Wilson, who was on medical leave, was apparently notified by text that she has been terminated. "No reason was given in the termination, and Wilson said no clarification has been given. Alabama is an at-will state where employers can fire employees without cause at any time as long as they don’t run afoul of a handful of federal and state protections," the report states. "Although no reason accompanied the termination text, Wilson had been disciplined on March 21, the day after she went on leave, for speaking with the Alabama Political Reporter for a story about how the board violated the Open Meetings Act by convening a special meeting with less than 24 hours notice."

In Washington State, local affiliate King5 has a story about the debate over library e-books heating up once again. "For every book a library buys, it costs four times as much to buy an e-book. With costs rising, librarians said the situation is unsustainable," the report notes. Whatcom County Librarian Carmi Parker told reporters, "The e-book of this title [Michael Connelly's The Law of Innocence] used to be $75 and we had it forever. Now it's $75 for two years. It expires and we have to buy another one....Taxpayers are simply not getting their money's worth." The report adds that librarians "would like to see legislation passed to help close the affordability gap," and "hope to introduce a bill in Olympia next year."

ALA officials shared good news on the federal budget front after President Biden signed a long overdue (FY) 2024 budget into law last week that kept federal library funding programs at stable funding levels. But in a message this week, ALA noted that the FY25 budget process has already kicked off with an unwelcome surprise: the White House proposed a budget that includes a reduction in funding for federal library programs. “This disappointing news means that we will have to work overtime to line up congressional support to avoid major cuts to library services,” ALA officials report. Librarians are urged to get in the game, and can use the ALA’s #fundlibraries homepage as a resource.

And finally this week, the Digital Public Library of America this week shared news that it is seeking a new, permanent home for its digital collections, which includes "nearly 50 million images and files from over 6,000 libraries and archives." It's a tremendous resource. "Next month we are launching a search to select a vibrant and durable home for this extraordinary resource, with the "core operations of this work" supported by a "multi-million dollar fund that we are in the process of raising," DPLA officials state. "We will be looking for several key qualities in potential candidates, including the ability to support and sustain the project into the future, a commitment to values of equity and inclusion, experience with collaborative projects, and proficiency in working with large-scale digital infrastructure." The goal is to select a new home by July and to launch the project there in early 2025.