Ten Stories That Shaped 2021

How time flies! Once again we look back at the memorable events of the past year.

10. More Libraries End Late Fines

Libraries continue to make headlines for discontinuing the assessment of financial penalties for returning books late. Not only does this practice help get overdue books returned, it promotes equitable access to library collections.

9. Cape Town Library Damaged by Fire

In April, a fire partially destroyed the main library at the University of Cape Town. Recovery efforts are still underway.

8. Taylor Swift...?

Not one but two copyright stories this year involved Taylor Swift: the dubious practice of the police playing her songs to avoid being live streamed, and the musician having to re-record her hits in order to regain ownership of them.

The Lighter Side: "Library Rap" Raises Eyebrows

All I can say about this story is to watch the video yourself, if you can get through it.

7. University of California Re-Ups with Elsevier

After a long standoff over pricing and author rights, the University of California agreed to again subscribe to the for-profit publisher's titles.

6. Supply Chain Issues in Publishing

Shipping delays and understaffing hit many economic sectors this year, and the books trade was no exception.

5. "Illegal Aliens" LCSH Retired

After over a decade of controversy, the Library of Congress approved a change to their "Illegal Aliens" subject heading in November, replacing it with the terms "Noncitizens" and "Illegal Immigration," prompting an outcry from Senator Ted Cruz.

Dishonorable Mention: NFTs

Librarians are all too familiar with the contrived scarcity imposed on electronic formats by commercial interests. This year, the hype train that is non-fungible tokens reached fever pitch, causing concerns over their environmental impact.

4. Controlled Digital Lending

Whither libraries in the Internet Age? One answer is the use of metered circulation mechanisms that allow for libraries to "lend" electronic copies of materials. Commercial publishers, unsurprisingly, would prefer to set their own prices.

3. Cancel/Consequence Culture

The publishing industry has always had its fair share of scandals. This year's controversies involved Josh Hawley, Doctor Seuss, Alex Gino, Alice Sebold, Captain Underpants, and Phillip Roth.

2. Covid Exacerbated by Misinformation

Ahmed Baba describes the situation perfectly: "It's important to directly state that Republicans and right-wing media have spent this year blatantly sabotaging Biden's COVID response while simultaneously criticizing him for not getting COVID totally under control. It's a deliberate strategy and it's unfortunately working."

1. Book Banning Intensifies

This perennial entry takes the top spot this year due to the drastic rise (or "dramatic uptick," to quote the ALA) in challenges led by conservatives to library books.

What was your favorite library story of 2021?