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Library board votes to change mission statement, drop association with ALA

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GILLETTE, Wyo. — Campbell County Public Library System Board of Directors approved in a 4-1 vote a statement tonight that it will no longer be associated with The American Library Association, or ALA.

The ALA was founded in October 1876. Its mission is “to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.”

“The Campbell County Public Library (CCPL) will no longer have any association with, nor be associated with The American Library Association (ALA) its affiliate organizations, subdivisions or subsidiaries there of,” the statement said. “No CCPL public funding will be used for any membership, training, informational services or events sponsored by the afor mentioned groups or any groups associated with them. CCPL policy’s will be adjust to reflect the same.”

Chair Sage Bear said after the meeting that the board will need to review existing library policies for the use of ALA terminology in moving forward from the decision. Bear said Tuesday that the board will remove ALA verbiage from the library’s policies.

The move would also include dropping any library funding ties to the Wyoming Library Association, which is associated with the ALA, Bear said after the meeting. She said she’s not happy about cutting ties with the Wyoming Library Association. She said she feels torn because she wants librarians to have resources and education but she believes the ALA doesn’t represent Campbell County well. It’s much more liberal, she said.

“We’ve got to stand up,” she said. “Otherwise they’re just going to continue dominating. … They’re all on the left. And they have the right to be on the left if they want to be, but Campbell County’s very conservative, and it doesn’t represent us.”

Campbell County Public Library System is not itself a member library of the ALA yet individual librarians have attended various conferences in the past and use it as professional development and developing programming and services for the public, Circulation Manager Elizabeth Albin said after the meeting.

For example, library staff have heard about apps library patrons use the Wyoming Library Database Catalog, or WYLDCAT, through the conferences, she said. That app allows parents to link their library cards with the library cards of their children so that they have just one list of books checked out, she said.

“We’re very pro parent [and legal guardians] involvement,” she said. “All of the systems are set so that parents make the choices of what their kids have access to. We feel that responsibility is on parents’ shoulders, not our shoulders.”

Campbell County Public Library System Director Terri Lesley presented information about the ALA at the August board meeting.

Albin said that losing the connection with the Wyoming Library Association is what library staff are even more concerned about, because of the local ties.

“They are a great support system for us,” she said.

The association represents Wyoming and provides a lot of career development and professional development, she said. The library doesn’t pay dues to them either but it’s the local library association, and they have a lot of connections with the association.

Each Campbell County School District school participates in the Wyoming Library Association’s student-selected awards for authors, for example, Albin said. Albin, who works in Adult Services, said she didn’t know whether private schools are involved in the awards. Every year, students read and select favorite books.

The board voted 3-2 to change the Campbell County Public Library System’s mission statement from this:

“Our mission is to provide diverse cultural opportunities for reading, learning and entertainment to all citizens of our community. We lead the way to a universe of information with personal service and technology.”

to

“Our mission is to provide diverse cultural opportunities while reflecting community standards. We strive to provide opportunities for reading, learning and entertainment for all citizens of our community. We lead the way to a universe of information with personal service and technology.”

Bear said after the meeting that “reflecting,” instead of the word “upholding” that was previously used, was a nod to librarians who choose the books that come into the library.

“I think the librarians have a grave responsibility,” she said. “Are they guiding our culture or are they reflecting our culture?”

She said she’s not solely concerned about books with sexual content. She’s also concerned about books, such as those geared toward children on the topic of euthanasia or assisted suicide, that could instill in children that suicide would be a good choice in dramatic situations that youths encounter. A couple of children’s books, such as the Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) Activity Book, were published this year in Canada that are related to the country’s Medical Assistance in Dying legislation. Bear said she’s concerned children, like a family member of hers, would do it independently.

Bear previously said that “upholding community standards” would involve using the Miller Test, which is the U.S. Supreme Court’s test for determining whether speech or expression is obscene and therefore not protected by the First Amendment.

Under the Miller Test, obscene expression meets all three of these criteria:

  • The average person in the local community would find that the material, taken as a whole, mainly appeals to the prurient interest. In obscenity law, prurient interest is “a morbid, degrading, or excessive interest in sexual matters,” according to the APA Dictionary of Psychology
  • The work depicts or describes, in a clearly offensive way, sexual conduct, as defined by state law
  • Whether the overall work doesn’t have substantial literary, artistic, political or scientific value

Board Member Charlie Anderson voted against the two measures. Board Member Darcie Lyon voted against the mission statement change.

Albin said she’s very concerned that by adding those words, only a certain group of people will get to decide what a community believes, rather than the community itself.

“We see everybody in the community through our doors, and we want them to be able to feel represented in the public library, because their tax dollars pay for our operations as well,” she said.

Albin said she’s from a very Christian, conservative home and while she understands that there are topics some families don’t agree with, she also believes that the library should represent everyone in the community. She wants parents to be able to make their own decisions for their own children.

“That’s why public libraries exist,” she said.

She said librarians respect families’ wishes and make sure they recommend books that they know individual families would like, because they have gotten to know the families.

Albin also said that anyone, including parents, is allowed to go into the Teen Room, also known as the Young Adult department, once it’s actually open. It’s currently closed due to the flooding following the water main break.

Parents are welcome to accompany their children as the children browse shelves, she said. She said library staff just want to avoid having adults hanging out for extended periods of time in the Teen Room who are not affiliated with children in the room.

The board unanimously decided to table new language for a child policy so there could be more time to communicate changes with parents.

The board approved some changes for teens, which County 17 will cover in an upcoming story.

Correction, Oct. 28 Bear said on Monday after the meeting that both votes were 4-1. Board Member Darcie Lyon told County 17 via email Oct. 28 that she had voted against the mission statement change, making the vote 3-2. The correction has been made in the story above.

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