Ten Stories That Shaped 2023

It’s time yet again to take a look back at the memorable library stories from the past year.

Two themes dominated headlines in 2023: attacks on libraries; and the rising implications of generative artificial intelligence.

10. Misplaced Classified Documents

Fallout over politicians from both parties mishandling documents continued to make news early in the year.

9. Attacks on Librarians – Kirk Cameron

In a peculiar bid to paint himself the victim of library policies, Kirk Cameron staged conflicts over his right-wing children’s books and related library events.

8. Generative AI – Audio Books and Music

Improvements in automated text-to-speech software held ramifications to the human narration of audio books.

Computer-generated music also made inroads this year, namely by mimicking actual musicians.

7. War Impacts Publishing

In June, author Elizabeth Gilbert halted plans for a book set in Russia.

In October, the Frankfurt Book Fair withdrew a planned award for Palestinian author Adania Shibli.

Sponsors also pulled out of the National Book awards in November, due to a political statement made by attendees.

In December, a similar incident occurred with journalist Masha Gessen.

6. Publishers Win Case Against (Electronic) Library Lending

A highly-watched lawsuit brought by publishers against the practice of “Controlled Digital Lending” was decided for publishers in district court this year, although the Internet Archive Library has appealed the case.

5. Generative AI – Book Covers

Another controversy over AI-generated content this year brewed over book covers.

Similar scandals broke over the use of generated content in newspapers, websites, and magazines.

4. Generative AI – Hallucinations Aplenty

A key point to note about the current generation of chatbots in use is that they may brazenly fabricate false information, and it isn’t just drawing people with six fingers.

It’s also becoming readily apparent that AI-generated images are mucking up our view of reality.

3. Attacks on Librarians – Moms for Liberty

Unless you were living under a rock this year, you heard of the many stories involving this organization devoted to banning books in libraries.

2. Generative AI – Copyright Disputes

Two aspects of generative AI and copyright made for a pair of noteworthy news items this year:

One, the argument that the bulk of generative AI’s output is based on theft, namely in the form of unauthorized sampling of other intellectual property, became the source of several lawsuits.

While secondly, debates occur in parallel over the copyright status of what such AI produces.

1. Attacks on Librarians – Censorship, Threats, and Violence

In the past two years, amidst the backdrop of the book banning movement, librarians have been subjected to bomb threats, bullet holes in books, shot out windows, graffiti, death threats, and more, all apparently part of a concerted harassment campaign against members of our profession.

Here’s to a safe 2024!