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After firing their library director, the Campbell County Public Library Board appoints one in the interim


The Campbell County Public Library board approved an interim library director after firing longtime director Terri Lesley at a special meeting last month over her refusal to remove or relocate books on sex education and LGBTQ+ issues for children and teens. Brandy Elder, the county’s human resources director, was unanimously approved on Tuesday, Aug. 8 to lead the library until a permanent director is hired.

“I think having the HR [director] as the interim director is probably the softer, easier way of anything and that's what we're looking for,” said library board chair Charles Butler.

In the past, one of the ways the county has dealt with vacancies is by having a department head or existing employee split time between two departments.

“I just think she'd [Elder] be a good fit,” said board member Sage Bear. “Appointing a director from another part of the county, which is something I didn't know that was common practice, I think that's a great thing that they know, and she says she has time for it, and she knows the field.”

The 5-0 vote in favor of Elder comes after the board voted 3-2 to change the job requirements for the library director position at a special meeting on Aug. 1. Approval was required from the county commission for the revised requirements. The commission approved the new job description on a 4-1 vote at a special commission meeting on Aug. 4.

Under the new description, a graduate degree in library science from an accredited college or university is preferred but not required. An undergraduate degree in any field is required in addition to nine years of experience in library management, business management, or a related field. The previous requirements stipulated a master’s degree in library science from a college or university accredited by the American Library Association (ALA) as well as at least nine years of library management experience.

Elder will also retain her position in human resources with the county during her time as interim director. During the meeting, Elder said there have been several applications for the permanent library director position already but couldn’t elaborate further due to confidentiality surrounding personnel-related issues.

“It's very important that the employees of the library have somebody to support them during this time,” Elder said. “We have fantastic, amazing employees at the library, and it's a difficult time anytime an executive director is not there. So, if this was something I could do to support them, then I was happy to help.”

As interim director, Elder will oversee the day-to-day business operations of the library and offer support during the evaluation process of permanent director applicants as well as through the hiring process. A permanent director is required to be installed for the formal implementation of a new collection policy that the library board approved in June.

“I grew up in the library,” Elder said. “My mom worked there for 34 years. So not me specifically [in having library experience] but I have a good knowledge of library, but I won't be there in a library [decision making] capacity.”

Despite the controversy attached to the library board, a majority of county commissioners approve of their actions and don’t have regrets about appointing four of the five current board members.

Commission chair Colleen Faber also encouraged Gov. Mark Gordon to sever ties with the ALA after the Montana State Library Commission voted in favor of doing so. The Wyoming State Library and the Wyoming Library Association, which the library board severed ties with last year, are separate organizations and are governed by different bodies. The Wyoming Freedom Caucus is advocating similarly.

Library board chair Butler and Bear were also named advisors to and helped launch the recently-formed World Library Association, a conservative alternative to the ALA.

Elder said a review of the applications for the permanent library director position will be conducted in two weeks. The hiring process will follow the precedent followed by other similar positions filled recently. It means applications will go through Elder, be reviewed by the board and followed by a panel interview. The library board will make the final decision. Due to her position in HR, Elder will be involved throughout the entire process.

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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