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The Campbell County Library Board votes to change their collection policy

Campbell County Library Board meeting attendees line up to give their opinions on the American Library Association. Those supportive of the library and the ALA outnumbered those who voiced criticism of it. The board voted to disallow any public funds from going towards staff membership in the organization, claiming it's politically motivated and aims to sexualize and indoctrinate youth on such issues such as sex education and LGBTQ issues.
Hugh Cook
Wyoming Public Media
Campbell County Public Library Board meeting attendees line up to give their opinions on the American Library Association in October 2022. The board voted 3-2 to change their collection policy on June 8. It comes after months of work, public input, as well as guidance from the Liberty Council, a Florida-based nonprofit that advocates for and engages in litigation related to conservative Christian values.

The Campbell County Public Library Board voted 3-2 to change their collection policy. It comes after months of work, public input, as well as guidance from the Liberty Council, a Florida-based nonprofit that advocates for and engages in litigation related to conservative Christian values.

The previous collection policy has been replaced by one that was introduced to the public in late March and that was approved at the meeting. It removes statements from the American Library Association (ALA), including a Library Bill of Rights and on the Freedom to Read as well as any mention of the ALA. The board voted to sever ties with the ALA and Wyoming Library Association, a chapter member of the ALA, in October 2022.

“The ALA is a self-proclaimed socialist Marxist, activist group, and they've said this over and over, so this has absolutely nothing to do with targeting LGBTQ ideology or anyone's lifestyles, which is the ALA narrative,” said board member Charles Butler. “This is about making the library more responsible for protecting children from sexually explicit material until they are mentally and develop[mentally] mature enough to understand the ramifications and consequences of sex and different lifestyles.”

Other Liberty Council recommendations that made it into the new policy is a policy titled “Protecting Children from Harmful, Sexually Explicit Material in Areas Designated for Minors.”

It reads that the library “takes seriously its obligation to not include obscene sexually explicit or graphic materials” and required the library director to report to the board at least once every six months regarding compliance with it. The new policy puts the library director in charge of selecting materials, stating:

“[The director is] acting on the authority of the Library Board and subject to standards set forth by the Board” when selecting materials.

Board chair Sage Bear read some of the comments the board had received over the change. They included those both in support and opposition to the change.

“The info in the books is not obscene and not illegal,” one comment read in opposition.

“The policy is written by far-right extremists,” read another one.

“Teens who are looking for this info can find it in the adult section. We don't need to expose younger teens to that,” read one that was in support.

Board member Charlie Anderson said that the existing policy was sufficient for the library and that he had concerns over the constitutionality of the collection development policy that was passed.

“The existing rules we have are written by library professionals and are constitutionally defendable. They're good standards [and] they were worked on over a period of years,” he said. “I don't know that we found all of the hidden little clever things that Liberty Council added…I think we should postpone adoption of the rules, until we can get an opinion from the county attorney, that the new rules pass constitutional muster.”

Board member Darcie Lyon, who along with Anderson voted against the policy, said she supported removing the ALA from the policy but questioned whether it would put the board in a precarious position with some of the language and how perceptions differ on what may or may not be offensive to different people.

“Does it start with kissing, does it start with oral sex, does it start with just touching each other?” she asked. “Everybody has that sense of difference with where that starts within themselves, and I think to look at every book with that same thing, it starts a slippery slope.”

Lyon also expressed concern about the library telling someone can’t read a certain book.

“I think we have the right to read whatever we want,” she added.

Bear and Anderson also debated whether the Children’s Internet Protection Act, which was included in the new policy, applies to books. It was passed by Congress in 2000 and requires schools and libraries receiving discounted telecommunications, Internet access, or internal connections services via federal funding to certify and implement internet safety policies and technological protections that filter certain visual depictions deemed obscene, pornographic, or harmful to minors.

Anderson argued that it didn’t apply to books and wouldn’t stand up in court. He also took issue with the advice that lawyers associated with the Liberty Council have given the board on changing the collection policy.

“I would love to see an opinion from lawyers that you talk to who are from Florida, who are illegally giving advice in the state of Wyoming, on Wyoming law, to a Wyoming body, who should be censured for that,” he said. “They're trying to practice law in Wyoming and they're not admitted to practice here. Now, why in the world would we ever trust their viewpoint?”

Bear disagreed and said the lawyers told her it does apply.

“If it comes to adjudication then that’s what we’ll do,” she said.

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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