Campbell County Commissioner says county should stop funding the library


GILLETTE — A Campbell County Commissioner said he does not believe the Campbell County Public Library should receive funding from the county.

Commissioner Del Shelstad made the comment during a meeting between the Campbell County Commissioners and the Campbell County Public Library Monday afternoon. He expressed frustration that not much has happened since the beginning of July, when some residents brought up the issues they had with books being in inappropriate sections of the library.

He said the process to challenge books is taking longer than it should.

So far, since Aug. 9, the date the first challenge was received, the library has received 35 forms for reconsideration of books. They’ve been submitted by 14 different people, and they cover 18 unique titles, said library director Terri Lesley. Of those 35 forms, 16 letters on seven unique books have been written by library staff and sent to the people who filed the challenge.

Susan Sisti said 13 more forms were submitted Monday.

Shelstad said the library should be getting these reviews done in a week, not in a few months.

“This is creating some division in this community, we need to take some action on this,” he said.

Commissioner Rusty Bell asked if the library has the budget for staff to be working on these challenges, and wondered if it would be asking the commissioners for more funding next year to help with that.

Shelstad said the library shouldn’t come asking for more money because in his opinion, “we shouldn’t fund you at all.”

This comment was received with applause as well as some light booing from the audience.

“If that means closing it, then we close it,” Shelstad elaborated.

He said he read the book, “This Book Is Gay,” and his issues with it “has nothing to do with the fact that it’s about gay, it’s about the fact that it’s inappropriate for our kids.”

He read portions of the book that talked about “how to give a handy,” and said one sentence in the book says that “porn is fine and fun.”

“It doesn’t take anything but common sense to figure out that’s not appropriate,” he said, adding that it doesn’t make him a bad person for wanting books like this to be moved.

“What are we doing putting this garbage in front of our kids?” he asked.

The fact that the library allows teens easy access to books about sexual activities is a big problem, Shelstad said. Movie theaters won’t let children watch R-rated movies without a parent, and kids aren’t allowed to buy firearms.

“Why do we have to look at our library and say, it’s open to anything, no matter what it is, no matter what’s in that book, we’re not going to restrict who can check out that book?” he asked. “I fundamentally think that’s wrong. It definitely doesn’t follow the community standards in this community.”

In the children’s area, there is a section for parenting books, some of which are written for parents to read along with their children, and some which are written for parents to learn about dealing with parenting issues. Some of the challenged books came from this section.

“That section was moved to the children’s section at the request of parents,” said board chair Dr. Hollie Stewart.

“If parents can ask for that to be moved, then why can’t we move it now?” a woman asked before walking out of the room.

Commission Chairman Bob Maul said he’d like to see the review process become more streamlined.

“I don’t want to take any books out of the library, I’m not looking to censor anything, but we have to come up with some kind of solution that’s going to make this a valuable asset in our community,” he said.

Board member Charlie Anderson said he’d be open to looking at making some changes to the process once the board gets through these current challenges. Although the process has been in place for years, it hasn’t been used very often before this summer. The board is getting “a chance to “look at these things, see what works and what didn’t work.”

“I think there are a lot of things we could change to make it better,” he said. “I don’t think that sounds impossible to me at all.”

Commissioner Colleen Faber said books by conservative authors are popular, and that she’s been on the waitlist for months for a couple of them. This shows that there is a desire in the community for books that represent more conservative values, she said.

She said the board book “An ABC of Equality,” which is in the children’s section, mentions things like, “F is for Feminism,” “G is for Gender” and “T is for Transgender.”

She said there’s a more conservative board book series, the Tuttle Toddlers, which has books such as “The ABC’s of Liberty” and “The ABC’s of Economics.”

Lesley said the library devotes a lot of its collection budget to patron requests, and that people are encouraged to suggest books that they believe should be in the library. She said the library gets about a dozen requests every couple of weeks.

Shelstad said the library uses the American Library Association for everything but its young adult classification.

“When it comes to what is classified as young adult, (ALA) they would say 17 to 21,” he said. “You (the library) say 12 to graduation.”

According to the ALA’s website, a young adult is classified as anyone ages 12 to 18.

Faber said the ALA is “known for their liberal viewpoints” and for discriminating against conservatives, she said. She wondered if there is a more local component that Campbell County could use.

“If we are going to provide what the citizens of this community desire, then we need to think a little bit more like a redneck,” Maul said.

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