Campbell library board votes to keep contested book in teen section

GILLETTE — The Campbell County Public Library Board voted Monday to keep “This Book Is Gay” in the teen section.

“This Book Is Gay,” written by UK author Juno Dawson, has been the subject of six reconsideration forms. It’s about the LGBTQ experience and has been criticized by some residents for its description of sexual acts.

Commissioner Colleen Faber had challenged the book and asked that it be moved out of the teen section. 

The department manager read the book, as well as reviews of the book, and recommended the book stay in the teen section. Five other library systems in Wyoming have the book. In her response, the manager wrote that “transferring the book to another part of the library is in effect removing it from its intended audience, and is considered censorship.” Director Terri Lesley decided to go with the recommendation.

The way the process is set up, if the person is not satisfied, she may speak with the library director. If she still is not satisfied, she may speak to the library board at its next meeting.

Faber appealed the decision and spoke with the board at its monthly meeting Monday.

She said the book is not educational and that it’s encouraging teens to engage in adult activities. The book tells readers that bars and night clubs are good places to meet people, and it also mentions Grindr, an LGBTQ hook-up app, as another option.

The author surveyed 300 people, most of them adults, and she was particularly disturbed by one story that was told in the book about a 16-year-old boy who was flirting with an older, married man.

“Would you agree a 16-year-old boy pursuing an adult man is a prosecutable offense?” Faber asked.

Board member Charlie Anderson said that while it is prosecutable, that’s not what the book as a whole is about.

“I don’t recall anything in the book where they encouraged any of that activity, they talked about it happening, but I don’t think it was encouraged,” he said.

“It did seem to me, and I read the whole book, that it was very much encouraging,” Faber said.
Board chair Dr. Hollie Stewart said there was a case in Texas where a library board was sued for moving a similar book out of the young adult section. This led to a costly legal battle and the book eventually got moved back to the young adult section.

If the book is moved to the adult section, that doesn’t completely prevent a child from reading it.

“Will teenagers still be able to take the book off the shelf, look at the book, be exposed to the information and potentially process it without the parent ever knowing that happened?” Stewart asked.

“Yes,” Lesley said.

“I thought the same thing, you don’t want them going to the adult section where there are more adult books on more adult content,” Faber said.

She suggested the library get rid of the physical copy and keep the e-book version of it. That way, the only way for children to read the book is to check it out, which their parents could see. If it’s physically in the library, a kid could pull it off the shelves and read it without his parents knowing.

Stewart asked Faber if she intended to make a decision on library funding “based on any decision that we make here?”

Faber said she was coming before the board as an “interested patron” with a “strong interest in children and education and literacy.”

“We can have good robust discussion, we can disagree or agree, but at the end of the day we all need to work together,” she said.

Miranda Finn and Mandy Steward voted for moving the book to the adult section. Anderson and Stewart voted to keep it in. Board member Nancy Stovall was not at the meeting, so the motion to move the book failed on a 2-2 vote.

However, the board voted unanimously to establish an exploratory committee to see about creating a parenting section in the upstairs part of the library for books about the teenage experience.

“I think you can make an argument that this book could be included in that section,” Finn said about “This Book Is Gay.”

So far, 52 challenge forms have been submitted. They cover 27 unique titles and have been submitted by 15 different people. Thirty-two response letters concerning 16 books have been sent out. Fourteen books will remain where they are, while two books were moved from the teen collection to the adult graphic novel collection.

These books are “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe and “A Quick & Easy Guide to Sex and Disability,” by A. Andrews, and they were moved because “we thought a bit of the content was adult in nature,” Lesley said.

This was the first appeal heard by the library board in years, she said.

“It’s a good, civil process, I thought it gave our challenger a chance to bring her concerns all the way to the library board,” Lesley said.

At its November meeting, the board will listen to four more appeals:

  • “Trans Mission - My Quest to a Beard,” by Alex Bertie
  • “The V-Word: True Stories about First-Time Sex,” by Amber Keyser
  • “Meena,” by Ine Van Mol
  • “Mary Wears What She Wants,” by Keith Negley