2023 Year in Review

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2023 Year in Review

American Libraries editors take a look back at the news that affected librarianship in 2023. It was another record year for book challenges, but libraries, politicians, and advocates found new ways to resist. Authors pushed back on artificial intelligence; ALA approved new standards for library services for incarcerated people; ALA Executive Director Tracie D. Hall resigned in early October; and private equity firm KKR—which owns OverDrive—acquired Simon & Schuster. Through it all, libraries and library workers remained steadfast in their support of patron needs....

American Libraries feature, Jan./Feb.

Music and Mocktails at Grand Forks (N.Dak.) Public Library

Cass Balzer writes: “Alcohol-free events have gained significant traction in recent years. It’s a trend reflected in the growing popularity of wellness challenges like Dry January, a time when millions of people abstain from alcohol at the start of a new year. In response, several public libraries around the country are now providing adults-only, sober-curious programming to educate attendees on making alcohol-free mixed drinks. Those who organize these events say that such programming has promoted inclusion, helped those in recovery, and further established the library as a safe place to socialize.”...

American Libraries Trend, Jan./Feb.

Frederick Douglass

With ALA’s LibLearnX conference coming to Baltimore January 19–22, American Libraries’ By the Numbers department collects fascinating literary stats about the Charm City. Learn how many years Baltimore has hosted the International Edgar Allen Poe Festival and Awards; when Frederick Douglass published his first autobiography, much of which covers his life when he was enslaved in Baltimore; the address of the home where F. Scott Fitzgerald finished his final novel, and the number of first-person essays in the American Prison Writing Archive maintained by Johns Hopkins University’s Sheridan Libraries....

American Libraries Trend, Jan./Feb.

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“A federal judge on December 29 temporarily blocked key parts of and forbids teachers from raising LGBTQ+ issues. Judge Stephen Locher’s preliminary injunction halts enforcement of the law, which was set to take effect January 1 but already had resulted in the removal of hundreds of books from Iowa schools. Locher blocked enforcement of provisions banning books depicting sex acts from school libraries and classrooms and forbids teachers from raising gender identity and sexual orientation issues with students through the sixth grade.”...

Associated Press, Dec. 29

Frozen soap bubble

Cory Doctorow writes: “Tech bubbles come in two varieties: The ones that leave something behind, and the ones that leave nothing behind. Sometimes, it can be hard to guess what kind of bubble you’re living through until it pops and you find out the hard way. Artificial intelligence is a bubble, and it’s full of fraud, but that doesn’t automatically mean there’ll be nothing of value left behind when the bubble bursts. There will be a lot more people who understand statistical analysis at scale and how to wrangle large amounts of data.”...

Locus, Dec. 18

Mickey Mouse in Steamboat Willie

Adi Robertson writes: “Mickey Mouse has slipped off Disney’s copyright leash. The first versions of the iconic cartoon character, seen in Steamboat Willie and a silent version of Plane Crazy, entered the public domain in the US on January 1. (An early version of Minnie Mouse is also fortunately included.) There’s still a , but today is a moment public domain advocates have awaited for decades—and there are plenty of other exciting new entries as well.” A is already planned....

The Verge, Jan. 1; Duke Law School Center for the Study of the Public Domain; BBC, Jan. 2

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Part of the cover of Lessons in Chemistry

Neda Ulaby writes: “At the end of every year, public libraries around the country assemble lists of the books most borrowed by readers. Readers favored buzzy memoirs [like Prince Harry’s Spare] and novels adapted into TV miniseries [like Bonnie Garmus’s Lessons in Chemistry.] Not every US library tracks its most borrowed books. And there's no one big list from, say, the ALA.” But Book Riot has provided from 19 libraries....

NPR, Dec. 29; Book Riot, Dec. 21

Phone showing an Instagram login page

Mahnoor Faisal writes: “If you've noticed a drastic and sudden drop in your engagement on Instagram, there's a high chance that you've been shadowbanned. If that's the case, here's what you should do to get rid of the account restriction.” Steps include checking the status of your account, ensuring your content doesn’t violate community guidelines, and not using banned hashtags....

MakeUseOf, Dec. 26

Two people in conversation in front of a lake

Amy Gallo writes: “Are you a good listener at work? You might think you are because you put away distractions, stay quiet, and nod your head when someone is talking to you. You might even repeat back your conversation partner’s main points to demonstrate that you’ve heard and absorbed them. These are all smart things to do, but they can still leave the speaker feeling unheard or even dismissed. Active listening involves mastering a whole host of other skills—from learning how to read subtle cues to controlling your own emotional response. It requires both empathy and self-awareness.”...

Harvard Business Review, Jan. 2

ALA news and press releases

Illustration of censored books on fire

Laura Miller writes: “Conservative book bans recall the old joke about the drunk who loses his car keys in the park but searches for them under a streetlight because that’s where the light is. Conservative parents can’t keep their kids from being exposed to ‘bad’ information or ideas on the internet, but they can badger school boards into withdrawing books containing those ideas. As for the conservative advocacy groups behind the book ban movement, they can’t lose. That’s because their goal isn’t to protect kids but to bring about the (highly profitable) privatization of American education.”...

Slate, Dec. 28

Woman reading in a tent

R.O. Kwon writes: “It’s still true that a disproportionately large majority of books published by the Big Five—the publishers that dominate the book market—are by white writers. This is also a time when a lot of US schools and public libraries are banning and censoring books by people of color, and by queer and trans writers. I maintain the hope that, one day, American letters will be so inclusive that a piece like this will no longer be useful. But for now, here are some 2024 books by women of color I’m excited to read.”...

Electric Literature, Dec. 28

Kindle e-reader

Michael Kozlowski writes: “E-readers are very popular with seniors for a myriad of reasons. Screen sizes have increased over the years and it is quite easy to increase the font size, so more text fits on the screen. This not only applies to ebooks, but also digital magazines and newspapers. What are the best e-readers for seniors? We look at e-readers that have bookstores incorporated onto the device, since it is easy to buy content from an official store.”...

Good E-Reader, Jan. 1

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