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The Campbell County Library Board declines to remove books about sex, gender identity, LGBTQ issues from the teen section

A man amongst a crowd holds a sign that reads "CCPL Knowingly Encourages Sex for Minors" and another that says "Hate is not a virtue" in the Campbell County Commissioner's chamber
Hugh Cook
Wyoming Public Radio

The controversy that has surrounded the Campbell County Library carried over for another month. A considerable crowd filed into the Campbell County Commissioner's chamber, to the point where onlookers were standing. The meeting was initially planned to take place at the Wright Branch Library but was transferred to the Campbell County building after a scheduling conflict.

Both supporters and critics of the library and library board sat mostly quietly for the majority of the meeting until the public comment section, which occasionally became argumentative, with Dr. Hollie Stewart, chairwoman of the library board, asking a Campbell County Sheriff's Deputy to escort someone out of the chamber. The individual in question settled down before needing to be removed.

Campbell County Library Board meetings have been contentious since July when objections were made by several members of the public as to books that were available for check-out in the children's and young adults' section about sex, gender identity, and LGBTQ issues.

Terri Lesley, the executive director of the library, said there have been 27 books that have been challenged and that 52 requests have been filed for reconsideration, a process in which a member of the public can request that a book be reconsidered as being part of the library's collection.

Only four of the five library board members were present, who voted down an appeal to remove a single book in question, This Book Is Gay, in the teen section, in a two-to-two vote. This means that the book will not be moved, but another vote at a future board meeting could change that and will be taken when all five board members are present.

Those who are opposed to keeping the books in the children's section argue that they are inappropriate for children and that they promote becoming sexually active as minors. There were also claims that parents should be responsible for talking with their children about sex and sexually-related behaviors and that these books send the wrong message about sex and sexuality.

Campbell County Library.jpg
Hugh Cook
Wyoming Public Radio
A seated crowd in the Campbell County Commissioner's chamber. A sign next to a chair reads "CCPL Knowingly Encourages Sex for Minors"

Three Boy Scouts of America Scouting for Girls' Group Troop 109 gave a presentation before the board, which stated their support of the library and what it offers them. They were opposed to the books being relocated elsewhere.

Campbell County Commissioner Colleen Faber went before the board and explained the issues she had with one of the books, saying she was uncomfortable with the content it presented about sex-related issues. Chairwoman Stewart asked Faber specifically if her position as a county commissioner would lead her to call for defunding the library if the book were not moved elsewhere. Faber said she would not make such a strong action over a single book.

Meeting attendee Hugh Bennett stated that he believed having these kinds of books in the library was inappropriate for children and that those who had read them had received the wrath of the crowd during previous board meetings.

"We've had people shouted down for reading from the contents of some of these books being objected to," Bennett said. "My point being this, if we as adults are unwilling to hear it in public, how can we in good conscience provide it for kids that should be supervised by their adults, but not all families, as the LGBTQ lobby tells us, are not the same and not all parents have the ability to monitor their children's actions as well as they should."

Supporters of the library and board often cited their support for the library as an institution and what it means to Gillette and Campbell County.

Longtime Wright resident and former mayor Tim Albin expressed his appreciation for the board and the library.

"I couldn't have asked for a better friend to the community than the Wright Branch Library," Albin stated. "They have done a great job. My kids, we have nine of them, and the library was a great, great thing for them—is a great, great thing for them."

His wife, Kathleen, also stated her support and the benefits it has had for their homeschooled children.

The next library board meeting is scheduled for Nov. 22.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.

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