Campbell County library board passes new collection development policy

The Campbell County Library System approved a new collection development policy.

GILLETTE — The Campbell County Public Library Board adopted an amended collection development policy Thursday evening, but how it will be enforced remains to be seen.

There were several changes to the policy, but the main goal of many of the amendments was to keep graphic sexual content out of the hands of children and teens.

The library board spent several months going through the policy page by page to make changes. The Florida nonprofit Liberty Counsel also recommended some changes.

The board voted 3-2 in favor of the policy after a public hearing Thursday. Before the vote, Library Director Terri Lesley said she was worried about the changes.

“I do feel caught between the policy and the reality of the First Amendment,” she said.

The policy puts the ultimate responsibility for selecting materials with the library director. The draft proposes adding that the director is “acting on the authority of the Library Board and subject to standards set forth by the Board” when selecting materials.

A new section of the policy titled “Protecting Children from Harmful, Sexually Explicit Material in Areas Designated for Minors” came from the Liberty Counsel.

This section references the Child Internet Protection Act three times, and it says the library director shall ensure that no materials added to the children’s section or young adult section contain “any picture, photograph, drawing, sculpture, motion picture film, videocassette, or other visual representation of a person or portion of the human body which depicts nudity or sexual conduct, sexual excitement, sexual battery, bestiality, or sadomasochistic abuse.”

There is an exception made for materials on these topics purchased by the library “for bona fide research by adults,” but the director “must ensure” that children don’t have access to these materials.

Lesley said she worried that the act of purchasing a book some might find objectionable would violate the new policy.

“I don’t think that’s a violation,” said board chair Sage Bear. “I think that if it comes up, if it gets challenged and you refuse to do anything about it, then you’re in violation of the policy.”

Board member Chelsie Collier said today’s culture is rewiring children’s “moral and spiritual character,” and that the new policy is designed to combat that.

“Some of these changes are influencing our kids and we need to have safeguards to prevent life-altering consequences,” she said. “This policy will give a boundary to the cultural changes being pushed by our media to transform our nation to a sex-driven culture.”

The policy strikes out all references to the American Library Association. This includes the Library Bill of Rights and the Freedom to Read Statement, both of which are from the ALA. In September, the library board voted to have no connection to the ALA, which has been accused by some residents of pushing a liberal agenda.

Lyon said while she supports removing the ALA from the policy, she also worried about the slippery slope the board would be going down if it passes this policy.

“I cannot get past the idea of saying, ‘You cannot read this book,’ because I think we have the right to read whatever we want,” Lyon said. “If you start reading a book and you don’t like it, stop.”

Bear and board member Charlie Anderson argued over whether the Child Internet Protection Act, or CIPA, which is included in the amended policy, applies to books. Anderson said it does not, and that it won’t hold up in court.

“This language, it doesn’t mean what I think some of you might think it means,” he said.

CIPA, which deals with children’s access to obscene or harmful content on the Internet, only applies to schools and libraries who receive federal dollars for discounted internet rates. Anderson said it doesn’t apply to books, and that what the policy does is “mixing apples and oranges.”

Anderson made a motion to remove the Child Internet Protection Act from the policy, but this also failed after no one seconded it.

Bear said she’s been told by lawyers that it does apply, and “if it comes to adjudication then that’s what we’ll do.”

“I’d love to see an opinion from the lawyers you talked to from Florida who are illegally giving advice in the state of Wyoming,” Anderson said.

He criticized the Liberty Counsel for trying to influence policy in a state it’s not licensed to practice law in, saying its attorneys should be “censured.”

“They obviously have no ethics, why in the world should we listen to them?” Anderson asked. “If they have told you this is legal, I’d love to see it.”

He said most of the changes to the policy were not better or even as good as what was already in place, and he thought the board should hold off on voting on the policy until it gets an opinion from the county attorney’s office that the “new rules pass constitutional muster.” His motion to postpone the vote died without a second motion.

“I think they’re trying to get us into trouble,” he said of the Liberty Counsel. “I think they’re trying to break new ground, see if they can get us to the federal court someplace and take away a lot of our protections.”

Bear said the policy has “nothing to do with LGBTQ,” and that there are books the library can move to the adult section, and “the old enough kids can figure out where those are” by using the library’s card catalog.

Public feedback

Before voting on the policy, the board heard from several community members.

Supporters thanked the library board for decisions they said were putting children first and keeping them safe from pornography, while detractors criticized the board for taking away parental control and violating the First Amendment.

Bruce Williams said a lot of the suggested changes to the policy were “based on antisemitism.” Ed Sisti said he’s from New Jersey which he said has more Jewish people than Israel, and that “you have to really know what you’re saying when you talk about antisemitism.”

If any group of people would not be offended, it “would be the Jews,” he said, because they’re “resilient people and they would not like the special treatment.”

Dallas Remme questioned the part of the policy that requires the director to ensure children don’t have access to objectionable material. A lot of these books in question would be in the adult section.

“How do you intend to enforce this?” Remme asked. “Are you going to check every patron’s ID when they enter?”

Kathy Halvorsen said the policy changes are not about children, but about “fear, power and religious zeal,” and she told the board that it was “making a decision based on bogus, outdated, untrue information.”

Both Halvorsen and Remme said there is no pornography in the library.

“It’s just a red herring that detracts from meaningful conversation that the board could be having with the director and other staff,” Remme said.

Sisti and Ben Decker said this was gaslighting.

“Saying there’s no porn in the library is like saying there’s no potholes in Gillette,” Sisti said.