Commissioners continue to field library comments

Mike Moore, Gillette News Record photo Jovan Lewis, at right, hands Jeff Lewis a sign supporting the Campbell County Public Library prior to a meeting between Campbell County Commissioners and the library's board in August. Commissioners continue to field comments about the library more than three months after some library patrons began questioning the content of some of the library's books.

GILLETTE — For the past three months, Campbell County commissioners have gotten used to fielding public comments at their meetings regarding the Campbell County Public Library.

Tuesday’s meeting saw people from both sides of the issue, including some who were upset about comments that had been made last week.

“Threats of withdrawing funding from the extremely valuable resources in our community are not helpful at all, nor are efforts to prevent the school district from allowing students to go on field trips to the library,” said Christy Gerrits.

She was referring to comments made at at a library board meeting last week. Commissioner Del Shelstad suggested the commissioners reduce the library’s funding, and Susan Bennett said the school district could sever ties with the library.

Former librarian Sue Knesel said she was disappointed with the commissioners and the county attorney’s office “for not supporting the library board and your library director.”

The commissioners approved a resolution for special prosecution to allow the Weston County Attorney to investigate whether criminal charges should be brought against the library for allegedly spreading obscene materials.

“This group believes limiting access to information for teens is protecting them,” Knesel said. “I firmly believe that providing information also protects the youth of our community.”

Vicki Swenson said the issue has gone from dissent to subversion. She knew of three examples where people either moved away from Gillette or decided not to move to Gillette because of the library controversy.

Gerrits asked the commissioners to not listen to “a small but vocal group affiliated with a national hate group.”

The national group she’s referring to is MassResistance, which is based in Massachusetts. The group claims it is a pro-family organization that helps people need confront “assaults on the traditional family, school children, and the moral foundation of society.”

Others have labeled it an anti-LGBT hate group.

Gerrits asked the library to “continue serving us in the wonderful way it has, unimpeded by frivolous charges and harassment.”

On the other side of the issue, Susan Sisti said the library is engaged in social engineering, and used an example of a book in the library that encourages girls to join a boys’ softball team and take charge. She said it’s not healthy for girls to boss around boys.

Rebecca Painter said there is “sexual grooming” going on at the library and asked commissioners to “clean house at the library.”

Gail Cruse said that some of the books show how to engage in oral and anal sex but they don’t demonstrate condom use or talk about all of the sexually transmitted diseases that could result from this type of behavior.

“Whatever happened to safe sex?” she asked.

Helen Hayden said she’s not “a LGBTQ hater” or a bully, and that she’s the one being bullied. She believes the library is guilty of censorship because it chooses which books are on its shelves.

More than a dozen books have been challenged so far, including some that are included in the parenting collection, which is located in the children’s section. One of the those books is “How Do You Make A Baby?” which answers questions kids might have about the reproductive process.

“The book ‘How Do You Make A Baby’ is not education, it’s obscene, it’s not my opinion or opinion of a small group of people” Bennett said. “It’s obscene and offensive to many people who are trying to get their voices heard in the most polite way possible.”

Patty Junek said this is what happens when conservatives in Campbell County make themselves heard.

“That (liberal) vocal minority has carried weight for years now, and they’re surprised when the silent majority actually gets a voice,” she said.

She said library director Terri Lesley is out of touch with what’s going on outside of Campbell County.

“Terri Lesley made a comment that this is unusual, this is fine, nobody else has these issues. Evidently she hasn’t read any newspapers, which isn’t a bad thing, I’m sure,” she said. “She hasn’t paid attention to Facebook posts or anything, because this is happening across the nation.”

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