Controversy stirs at Campbell County Public Library

The public divides on what they consider to be “inappropriate” books available at the Campbell County Public Library.
Controversy stirs at Campbell County Public Library
Published: Sep. 28, 2021 at 6:59 PM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - Challenges to books in schools, bookstores, and libraries have been around for centuries resulting in the annual event of Banned Books Week.

But, instead of celebrating the freedom to read, some community members in Gilette, Wyoming are challenging the Campbell County Public Library over what they consider to be “inappropriate” books.

“We have actually received 35 forms since then and so it’s a lot, it’s actually very unusual for a public library to receive this many challenges in a small time frame,” said Terri Lesley, executive director of Campbell County Public Library.

The concern started when some members of the public decried books centered around LGBTQ+ topics. But now the controversy has gone more broad, with some objecting to books about sex education, teen fantasy novels, and even some children’s books.

One country commissioner is listening to those upset with the library’s material, saying the issue warrants government attention.

“There are certain standards that I think we have got to as adults, we have an obligation, not just as parents but I think the government has an obligation to say look we’re not going to get rid of these books but we’re going to make it so that a parent has to allow you to read that book,” said Del Shelstad, Campbell County Commissioner.

16 letters have been sent out of the 35 forms that have been received. Only one has been challenged.

As a result of this public campaign, Shelstad is challenging the public library and saying that rather than increase funding to address the issue, he’d prefer to see the library’s funding cut due to the controversial content.

“If they needed more staff to review this many book challenges, that they could come to the commissioners and ask for more money in their budget to do that and I said, that I didn’t agree with that I said don’t come asking me for that money, because you have not been willing participants in trying to solve this issue, and I said I would absolutely not fund that, in fact, I would be in favor of cutting your funding,” said Shelstad.

“Usually with an explanation that we have a balanced collection and that we can’t take sides, we want to have the book there and for the patrons to make their own decisions, that’s where we stand,” said Lesley.

However, the Campbell county public has picked sides. “This was a very divisive issue in our community,” said Shelstad.

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