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Campbell library board debates role of librarians in weeding

The Campbell County Public Library System's board meeting on July 24 featured about 45 minutes of discussion regarding the board's role and the staff's role in carrying out the collection development policy, without formal conclusions.

Campbell County Public Library System board members discuss the collection development policy July 24. (GPA-TV)

GILLETTE, Wyo. — The Campbell County Public Library System’s board meeting on July 24 featured about 45 minutes of discussion regarding the board’s role and the staff’s role in carrying out the collection development policy, without formal conclusions.

In June, the board approved, in a 3–2 vote, revisions to its collection development policy, culminating a line-by-line review of the document that began in January. They eliminated references to the American Library Association and the addition of a Policy for Protecting Children from Harmful, Sexually Explicit Material in Areas Designated for Minors.

Challenges are involved in carrying out the policy, too.

Director Terri Lesley said she doesn’t know off the top of her head when staff will next conduct a weeding of materials. The library should use the challenge process to guide its decisions regarding moving books.

Chair Sage Bear said that while there are “gray areas,” librarians can independently weed a book based on the harmful to children provisions in the policy. It’s one prong of improving the collection. Librarians make independent decisions regarding book removal under other criteria, like the condition and age of the book. She asked Lesley to hold librarians responsible for knowing the policy and carrying it out.

Lesley said sexual content is too subjective for a librarian to independently determine whether a book should be moved to adult collections. Community members’ perspectives on whether the book should be removed vary. Further, taking that action might also violate the First Amendment.

“You’re asking us to do something that makes us uncomfortable legally,” Lesley said.

She said she wants backup support from the board if she believes she’s in a position in which she could be sued.

Board member Charlie Anderson said that patrons need to be directed to use the challenge policy if they have concerns regarding a book. The board should take the responsibility of deciding whether to remove or move a book based on sexual content.

Charles Butler, whom the board elected the new board chair later in the meeting, said he wanted a copy of the list of books that would be in the roughly 17,000 reviewed in the next round of weeding and the list of books that remain in the library following the weeding.

The board made a formal vote on one aspect of collection development.

Board member Chelsie Collier asked for a report by the board’s next meeting on the movement or weeding of books in response to the harmful to children policy.

Anderson said the board should put it on its next meeting’s agenda since it wasn’t on the agenda and the collection development policy already calls for action.

Collier and member Sage Bear’s motion failed 2–3.

The meeting recording is available here.

Quick hits

  • Charles Butler is now the chair of the board. Collier is vice-chair, and Anderson is treasurer.
  • Collier said that while the special committee on denoting books’ content didn’t meet because it’s been a busy summer, she spoke with some people on the committee who had an idea to mark books while assuaging concerns regarding interlibrary or leased books: placing a sticker with letters or a QR code on a plastic cover on the book. The board will continue the discussion at an upcoming meeting.
  • The board will continue to meet at 4:30 p.m. on the fourth Monday of the month, they decided.
  • The library is asking the community to participate in a marketing survey before Aug. 11. Lesley said the library is using its small marketing budget to ask community members how they view the library, as staff want to provide the best library possible.
  • The library posts announcements regarding its events here.
Board Vice-Chair Chelsie Collier shows a book with a plastic covering to demonstrate an option for a content advisory label. (GPA-TV)