It's been quite an April for the library community. A strong 2024 Public Library Association conference in Columbus rolled right into National Library Week, and the release of the annual State of America's Libraries Report.

In her introduction to the report, ALA interim executive director Leslie Burger nods to how the library community has responded to complex moment they find themselves in. "Toward the end of 2023, I joined the American Library Association (ALA) in a new capacity, as interim executive director, at a time when book bans were plaguing school and public libraries and when library workers were being threatened and attacked for defending the First Amendment freedom to read," she writes. "The first thing I noticed was that so many libraries across the country were bursting with new programs, new displays, new services, and new ways to serve their communities, whether patrons or students. In the face of adversity, library workers were taking action."

In the report, Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), puts the unprecedented state of book banning in America in context. "In 2023, OIF recorded demands to censor 4,240 unique book titles in libraries, the highest number of books challenged since ALA began compiling data about censorship in libraries," she writes. "To understand how extraordinary this figure is, we can look at the average number of unique book titles challenged between 2001 through 2020. During that time, the average number of unique book titles targeted for censorship each year was 273. The highest recorded number of unique titles challenged during this period was 390 in one year. In that entire two-decade span, only 3,637 unique titles were challenged by censors—more than 600 fewer titles than in 2023."

Meanwhile, some good news from PLA: total attendance at the PLA Annual Conference in Columbus came it at 7,573 (5,702 attendees, 1,518 exhibitors, and 353 virtual), well above expectations. American Libraries has a host of great coverage from PLA, well worth checking out, if you haven't already.

Next up, the Texas Library Association gets underway next week. At Publishers Weekly, we previewed the 2024 TLA Conference. And it's not too early to start thinking about the ALA Annual Conference which runs June 27-July2 in San Diego. Registration is now open.

"In that entire two-decade span, only 3,637 unique titles were challenged by censors—more than 600 fewer titles than in 2023 alone.

The Idaho Capital Sun reports that Idaho Gov. Brad Little has signed a new law that will require Idaho public and school libraries to "move materials deemed harmful to children" or face litigation. "House Bill 710, backed by Republican legislative leaders, follows years of attempts by the Idaho Legislature to regulate materials deemed harmful to children in Idaho libraries," the report states. "The Idaho Library Association, which represents more than 260 librarians statewide, said it was 'so disappointed.'" The law empowers "children or their parents to file a legal claim against a public or school library if they obtain materials deemed harmful to minors." reports that Alabama legislators want to condition library funding on librarians moving or removing books as instructed. "For public libraries to receive $6.6 million in funding for fiscal year 2025, 'a public library must be in compliance with the Governor's proposed amendments' to the Alabama Public Library Service code, which includes moving books deemed "inappropriate" for children and teenagers," the report states. "The budget amendment is the third legislative action taken regarding libraries in the last week. Two bills were filed last week to make public school, university, and public librarians liable for 'obscene' content checked out by minors and to prohibit libraries from joining the American Library Association."

NPR has a segment on what's been going on in Alabama, where librarians have been fired for refusing to move or remove books deemed objectionable. "It's National Library Week, but in Prattville, Ala., it's a time of stress for librarians," the report notes.

Over at Book Riot, Danika Ellis and Erica Ezeifedi are filling in for Kelly Jensen, who is on a well-deserved break, and deliver a must-read roundup of their own, including news that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit this week heard a challenged to Missouri's controversial rule on books deemed harmful to students.

Courthouse News has the report on that aformentioned Missouri case: “The injury here is that there is a right of access to receive ideas and information,” attorney Gillian R. Wilcox, of the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, argued on behalf of the parents in a 30-minute hearing. “And when the policy is triggered by any complaint, the book in a library is automatically removed, and that causes the injury to the students and parents who are filing on their behalf.”

And finally this week, PBS has a piece on libraries who are fighting back against book bans, many by filing lawsuits of their own. "Suzette Baker lost her job as a librarian in Llano County, Texas, after refusing to put a third edition of Critical Race Theory behind the counter where patrons couldn’t find it unless they asked for it," the report notes. "Baker is now suing Llano County, county commissioners and community activists appointed to the library board. Her lawsuit claims that she was fired in order for the defendants to discriminate against protected groups, like those who identify as LGBTQ+, as well as suppressed her First Amendment rights."

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.