Lately, Book Riot has been covering a lot of book challenge and censorship news. We always have, but it’s skyrocketed recently. It’s necessary to shine a spotlight on this, but it’s also disheartening. It seems like bookish news stories are always about a beloved author’s death, library funding being cut, or book bans. It’s enough to make you feel hopeless.
But here’s the thing: that’s not all that’s happening. Bad news, scandalous news gets the headlines, but good things are happening every day. Libraries are providing support for their communities in incredible ways. New bookstores are opening up. Progress is being made in diverse representation in literature. These wins can be small — not worth a whole post to themselves, maybe — but they mean something. Even better, they remind me to keep fighting the good fight. Despair is not useful.
So whether you want a pick-me-up read before the weekend of silly bookish happenings or you want to remind yourself that positive change is possible and that people are out there doing the work, this roundup is a little bit of everything good and bookish that happened this week.
Solange Opens a Free Library for Books by Black Authors
The good news story of the week is Solange’s new online library. Saint Heron Community Library offers 50 titles featuring out-of-print and rare books by Black authors. Borrowers request one of the books (on a first come, first served basis), and it is mailed to them, with postage covered. You can keep the book for 45 days.
Guest-curated by Rosa Duffy, who founded the Atlanta-based community bookstore For Keeps Books focused on Black rare titles and classics, Saint Heron Library’s first “season” runs through October 29; a second iteration will be forthcoming, with dates to be announced. Once returned, the books will become part of the library’s permanent collection.
Positive Change Being Made
While it’s easy to get bogged down in the bad news, there’s also progress being made on justice in the book world, and here are some of the positive steps that happened this week!
- Racine Public Library has hired their first full-time social worker. Library workers so often have to fill the role of social workers. Having a trained professional available for anyone who needs it is a such a fantastic idea.
- Madison Public Library has launched a Native American Storyteller-in-Residence program.
- Oak Park Library has hired an antiracism director.
- More libraries have have eliminated fines for overdue materials, including New York Public Libraries system (!!!), The Western Library system in Washington, and Bismarck Veterans Memorial Public Library in North Dakota.
- In the United Kingdom, publisher Frances Lincoln has partnered with school library supplier Peters to “give away a free copy of This Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell and Aurélia Durand to all library and secondary school customers” to coincide with the UK’s Black History Month. A representative of the publisher said, “Librarians do such important work in promoting diversity and inclusivity in their communities. We are proud to be supporting them with this initiative and hope that with their help, This Book is Anti-Racist can inspire even more readers.”
- Easily find Black-owned bookstores (and other businesses) around the world to support using the new Blapp app.
- Utah libraries offer free Naloxone kits to prevent opioid overdose.
It makes sense that we spread the news when a library system gets gutted, but what about when literacy initiatives do get the funding they deserve? Here are some examples of money getting spent in the right places: on promoting literacy.
- FCC has committed over $1.1 billion in additional connectivity fund program funding, supporting 2,471 schools and 205 libraries in online learning. The money can be used for “purchase of laptops and tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and broadband connections for use by students, school staff, and library patrons in need,” including in off-campus learning.
- Scripps literacy campaign will distribute 200,000 books to low-income kids across the country as part of its “If You Give a Child a Book…” campaign. The campaign raised over $840,000 last fall, and every $5 donation gets a book into a kid’s hands!
- A late patron, Merle P. Davies, left $2 million to Chesterfield Township Library. Davies was a founding member of the Friends of the Chesterfield Township Library. The library is excited to continue their essential services while exploring new initiatives made possible with this funding.
- American Heritage Credit Union donated more than 2,600 books. They will be going to “hospitals, community centers, and special care facilities throughout the Philadelphia and suburban region” and are a result of more than $7,800 in donations in the past year.
- More than $120,000 was awarded by the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Office of Commonwealth Libraries to support open and affordable learning, to be used to create open access textbooks and course materials as well as for library resources.
- Brookings Public Library received a $2,500 grant from Dollar General Literacy Foundation to support youth literacy initiatives.
- 5,000 copies of Roy of the Rovers: Foul Play, a UK football comic, will be given away to kids in Blackpool, Bradford, Doncaster, Manchester, Middlesbrough, Nottingham and the North Yorkshire Coast.
- Aurelio’s Pizza in Chicago will donate $1 for each pizza box top returned in October to Bernie’s Book Bank, which provides books to low-income children.
Cool Things Libraries Are Doing
I’m always so impressed with the creative things that libraries do to support their community. They’re so much more than just books on shelves. Here are some of the fun, interesting, and inspiring things libraries are up to this week.
- The 200,000 linguistic books collection of Madeline Kripke, AKA the “Dame of Dictionaries,” will now be held at Indiana University’s Lilly Library, allowing the collection to be accessed by the public. It includes slang dictionaries of pirates, surfers, and circus workers, as well as important titles in dictionary history.
- Fowlerville District Library went viral on TikTok with its One Star Review Guess Who series, which got more views than there are residents of Fowlerville!
- Cushman Library is holding a contest for teenagers to design the logo of their new teen program.
- Findlay-Hancock County Public Library is offering spice kits to check out.
Good Bookstore News
Good news/bad news. Bad news: you missed the chance to buy a bookstore (Chop Suey Books) complete with an included bookstore cat mascot, WonTon. The good news is it sold to longtime customers who are excited to keep the place going.
Egypt Otis was interviewed about running a Black-owned bookstore that acts as a community hub in Flint.
Marta Hernández discussed her family opening Utópicas in Coyoacán, Mexico — a bookstore that promotes women’s writing. They also have a gallery and sell other artwork, especially by women. They are “very optimistic about their future, because every day they grow and it is a cause that they are passionate about as a family.”
Libros Bookmobile is a bookstore operating out of an old school bus, and it’s started making appearances at farmers markets in Hutto, Round Rock, and Pflugerville in Texas.
Fun and Heartwarming Bookish Miscellanea
- A very fancy chicken was found perusing the stacks at Haubstadt Public Library. It was returned to its owners, after a brief photoshoot.
- Poetry is experiencing a new golden age, with young writers of color taking the lead.
- A Belgian railway company is adding Little Free Libraries to its stations.