Library board denies first book challenge

In a bit of role reversals, Campbell County Commissioner Colleen Faber addressed the Campbell County Public Library Board of Directors Monday before they voted to deny her book challenge. (Gillette Public Access image)

Campbell County Commissioner Colleen Faber was the first citizen to have their book challenge go the distance. That challenge was denied on a split vote at Monday’s monthly Campbell County Public Library (CCPL) Board of Directors meeting.

Among the 52 books that have been challenged in the last two months, This Book is Gay. shelved in the Young Adult section, is the first publication to go before the board. Given an even number of board members in attendance, the board met with Deputy County Attorney Sean Brown regarding how the motions move forward in the event of a split vote between the four board members present at the meeting.

“If it is a motion to deny and it gets a 2-2 vote, then that gets confusing,” Board member Charlie Anderson said. “My clarification would be to have a motion to approve the appeal, a positive appeal.”

A positive motion is also consistent with standard parliamentary procedure.

After the discussion, Anderson made the motion to approve the appeal. Seconds later, he voted against the motion along with chairperson Dr. Holli Stewart. Voting for the motion were board members Mandy Steward and Miranda Finn. Board member Nancy Stovall was not present.

Finn followed the denial of the appeal with a motion to establish a committee comprised of board members and library staff to determine a potential place on the main floor for parenting books for children and teenagers. That motion passed 4-0.

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Background

Campbell County Commissioners have been hearing complaints at their meetings since July regarding books at the Campbell County Public Library. Recently, book challengers have complained that the process to move or remove a book from the collection takes too long. It can take up to 120 days for a book to go through the process before the process reaches its final consideration before the library board.

In the case of Faber’s challenge, it took 23 days to complete the first steps and then entire process took 51 days, more than two months less than the maximum allowed.

Faber’s challenge had a first-level response within a month. It was submitted Aug. 16 and a letter was sent on Sept. 13. Faber filed an appeal of the staff decision on Sept. 24 and the library board considered her appeal on Oct. 25.

According to Faber’s complaint, she said the book violates the contemporary community standards and says it should be considered obscene, according to Wyoming Statutes 6-4-301 when applied to youth. She feels the book should be removed from the youth collection.

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“Would the board be willing to advise the library staff to add more opposing viewpoints to the challenged books?” Faber asked the board before the vote.

“It seems like there is overwhelmingly one side being purchased and promoted, all related to minors engaging in sexual activity. I didn’t see a lot on abstinence. There are quite a few materials available that would [put] the collection in a little better balance.”

She did express her concern on the gaps in ages between the book and the section. The book is aimed at an audience of ages 14 and up. The Young Adult section of the library is for seventh through 12th grades Lesley said at the meeting, thus creating about a two-year age gap.

The lengthy, detailed response letter to Faber’s challenge stated that removing the book from the audience it was published and intended for is considered censorship. It was written as an educational resource for adolescents.

The letter went on to explain every public library has a collection policy to reflect different points of view on controversial, debatable subjects and to serve the educational research needs of secondary students.

Five libraries around the state currently have the title This Book is Gay in their collections. Of those five libraries, four have the book shelved in the young adult section. A total of six Wyoming libraries will have the book available, including Campbell County (Young Adult), Freemont County (Young Adult), Park County (Young Adult), Sublette County (Young Adult), and Natrona County (E-book). Teton County has the book on order but has not determined its placement, according to the library board.