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Campbell library board tables decision to rejoin Wyoming Library Association

Campbell County Executive Director of Human Resources/Risk Management Brandy Elder voices concerns about severing ties with that association and the American Library Association. (GPA-TV)

GILLETTE, Wyo. — The Campbell County Public Library System Board of Trustees may rejoin the Wyoming Library Association at a later date.

The board unanimously voted to table the decision to discuss rejoining the WLA at its Dec. 19 meeting, at which Campbell County Executive Director of Human Resources/Risk Management Brandy Elder voiced concerns about severing ties with that association and the American Library Association.

For one thing, continuing education is critical for keeping up with changes in law and new trends, she said.

Elder said that after the board made that choice, she looked into what training other county departments currently require and which memberships the departments or individuals hold for training purposes. According to its Personnel Guidelines, Campbell County can offer regular employees ongoing training and developmental opportunities that are either required for the employee’s present position or optional individual training classes leading to advanced certification or an undergraduate or graduate degree. The training must be relevant to the employee’s current or future position and benefit Campbell County.

She said she asked county departments to report the training they do and more than half of the 12 departments that responded said they provide membership or certification training for specialized certifications or memberships.

Elder also asked the board to reconsider its decision to withdraw from the WLA because of the number of memberships the library has. While the library has three to five manager memberships in the ALA, it has 18 to 24 memberships in the WLA, she said.

“I don’t think it would be fair for us to disclude one department from an organization unless we have a backup,” she said.

Elder said the County can choose which WLA programming the library and library employees participate in. She said that as she’s reviewed training options, everything she’s come across is tied to the ALA. Analogously, human resources training is tied back to the Society for Human Resource Management, she said. She said participation in the WLA aids in recruitment and retention, and some employees are working through master’s programs that require certifications.

Chair Sage Bear said she wondered whether visiting other libraries or doing one-on-one training would be possible.

“I don’t want any taxpayer dollar going back to the ALA. That’s where I stand,” Bear said. “So I challenge you to be creative and come up with some other things.”

Campbell County Public Library System Executive Director Terri Lesley said that in addition to administrative training, librarians want well-rounded and library-specific training and asked why certain members of the board have concerns about the WLA.

Bear said she believes the WLA and the ALA have the same agenda and that the WLA gave the library an award in 2021 because of its defense of intellectual freedom. The Wyoming Library Association bestowed its 2022 Outstanding Library Award to the Campbell County Public Library, and the American Library Association awarded Lesley the 2022 John Phillip Immroth Memorial Award.

In the article “Access to Library Resources and Services for Minors: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights,” the ALA said it supports “equal and equitable access to all library resources and services by users of all ages.”

“Library policies and procedures that effectively deny minors equal and equitable access to all library resources and services available to other users is in violation of the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights,” the association said. “The American Library Association opposes all attempts to restrict access to library services, materials, and facilities based on the age of library users.”

Elder said she will meet with Lesley to discuss training needs and present them and the WLA’s letter regarding the reason for the award at an upcoming board meeting. Then, they will establish a compromise with the library board, she said.

Board Member Darcie Lyon said she would be willing to return the library to the WLA. She said she believes the state library has considerable training and that she, too, can contribute to discussions at WLA conferences. She said that using her voice at the state level is a healthy way to respond to the sexualization of books.

Lyon and Board Member Charlie Anderson voted in favor of returning to the WLA, a motion that failed, with a 2-3 vote. Bear said she wanted to take more time before conducting the vote.

Bear said in an interview Dec. 20 that she believes the ALA has become more about political activism than librarianship, which isn’t what she wants out of a professional organization.

“I really do not like the ALA, and the WLA is an extension of that. Is it a lesser evil? Probably,” she said. “Do I want my librarians to get some training? Yes. So, I may have to hold my nose and do it, but I don’t want to do it right off the bat. I want to see what else is out there.”

She said that she would be more agreeable to rejoining the WLA if, in revising the collection development policy, the board and the library can find a good solution for moving the books and resolving the conflict because then the idea that nothing can be changed isn’t bolstered. She said library staff members have previously said they rarely look to the ALA for guidance, which contradicts the outcry that came with the board’s decision to leave the ALA.

Bear said she likes Idaho’s Community Library Network Collections Policy’s obscenity policies.

“Forms of expression that are unprotected by the First Amendment will not knowingly be included in the collection. Unprotected materials are those that have been declared obscene by a U.S. Court of Law. Materials for minors under the age of eighteen (18) that violate Idaho Codes 18-1513, 18-1514, and 18-1515 will be excluded from the juvenile and young adult collections,” the policy said.

She said that if children are supposed to have access to all materials, she doesn’t see the point of having a dedicated children’s area. Children who want to access books that are more suitable for older children or adults should go to those sections and seek out those materials, she said.

Youth Services Librarian Darcy Acord hasn’t responded to a voicemail County 17 left at 4:25 p.m. Jan. 20.

The board will have a collections development policy workshop from 4 to 6 p.m. Jan. 5.