Campbell County library board considers letting users put warning stickers on books

Campbell County Library board will possibly allow warning labels on books.

GILLETTE – A group of residents, along with members of the Campbell County Public Library Board, has proposed having trigger warnings to alert patrons about the contents of certain books.

The group emphasized that it would be library users, not library board members or library staff, that would be putting these warnings in the books, but some board members raised concerns over this system.

In September 2022, library chair Sage Bear appointed five people to a committee and tasked them with coming up with a content rating system for books in the library.

Gabby Messick, a member of the committee, presented the plan to the library board Monday afternoon. She said the goal was to come up with a system that gives people quick information about what might be in a book. The back cover and the book jacket may give details about the plot, but they usually don’t cover what type of content is in the book.

The trigger warnings are divided into four categories: discrimination, violence, sexual content and health and body issues. Each category goes more in-depth. For example, violence includes abuse, death and animal cruelty, among other things.

It’s not meant to be a rating system, Messick said, and it’s meant to be done by library users.

For example, Bear said a book that talks about a miscarriage might be triggering for someone who’s been through that.

“A person may want to engage with that, another person may want to avoid it,” she said.

The proposal is to have bookmarks and stickers around the library explaining the system. The bookmarks will be much more detailed. The stickers will have three lines where patrons can briefly write about what the book’s content is, as well as a QR code that will take people to a link with information on the system.

Anderson asked if each sticker-marked book would come back to the library board or library staff for approval. Bear said it would not, because it is patron-driven.

“What do you mean by that?” Anderson asked.

Collier said if people believe a book requires any trigger warnings, they can put the sticker on the inside of the book.

“It’s literally, patrons are putting the sticker in the book,” she said.

Collier said the system could be used throughout the library, not just for the children’s and teen areas.

“Do the lack of standards and vetting concern you?” Anderson asked.

“No, because we’re letting people know this is a patron-driven thing,” Bear said. “This is no different than people writing a review (online).”