Ten Stories That Shaped 2019

As we limp headfirst into a new decade, it’s beginning to feel like many of these stories have become perennial entries.

2019 saw yet more drag queen story hour protests, vendor buyouts, the persistence of fake news, scandals, and lawsuits aplenty, along with the usual spate of book burning and banning.

Below are some of the other notable headlines from the past year’s library-related news.

10. Naomi Cries Wolf

Feminist author Naomi Wolf found her book Outrages: Sex, Censorship, and the Criminalization of Love cancelled by the publisher after a public revelation that its research was based on the flawed assumption of equating "death recorded" with the death penalty.

9. Circulating More than Books

For years, libraries have been experimenting with checking out tools, humans, and other non-book items—a practice which continues to make headlines.

8. Clueless Architects

More proof that money doesn’t always buy common sense: A new $41 million branch of the Queens Public Library (initially) placed books on a staircase, rendering then inaccessible to wheelchairs, while Cornell University’s new upskirt-friendly building came with a $21.6 million price tag.

7. Emma Boettcher Wins Big!

Allowing ourselves to take a break from railing against "vocational awe" in librarianship, we offered a collective kudos this year to librarian Emma Boettcher for her appearances on the Jeopardy! game show.

6. The New York Times Flap

Calling it "fake news," a Florida commission blocked libraries from licensing The New York Times, while another patron in Idaho garnered national attention for their attempts to censor anti-Trump titles.

5. Privacy Roundup

Privacy issues this year included the boycott of the new registration policy from LinkedIn Learning; concerns over FaceApp and facial recognition software; complications with DNA Testing; and the legal case over the 2020 census citizenship question.

4. I’m Ok, You’re Biased

The concept of "algorithmic bias" is nothing new, but this year more attention was focused on how prevalent it has become in library systems.

3. "Cancel Culture" Hits Libraries

Examples include the removal of Mevil Dewey’s name on a library award as well as the cancellation of multiple conference sessions. Other cases where a controversial speaker was not cancelled involved the Toronto Public Library and the Seattle Public Library.

2. Publisher Pushbacks

The biggest open access story of the year would have to be the University of California’s failed negotiations with Elsevier. Other notable events include the New York Public Library’s cancellation of their Kanopy subscription, outrage over new e-book terms from Macmillian and Pearson, and the slow advancement of Plan S.

1. Whither Late Fees?

The movement to end library late fees seemed to reach the start of a tipping point this year. Whether or not your library continues this practice, it should at least justify the current policy in place.

What was your favorite library story of the past year? Mine was the debate over whether or not a character in Good Omens would actually wear white gloves when handling old books.