By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
The Campbell County Board of Commissioners is no longer allowing public comment during its meetings about the county’s public library following controversy over certain books on display.
Commissioners have received numerous complaints from members of the public about what some feel are inappropriate books on display for children and teenagers to see.
Commissioners, in a public comment Friday, pointed out the library is addressing a number of the complaints and is keeping commissioners informed on its review of the complaints.
“Although it is recognized that this is an important issue for our community, public comment will not be received on the library and the issues surrounding the library during the public comment period provided at the end of the regular meetings of the Board of Campbell County Commissioners … nor will comment be taken or received on this decision,” the statement said.
According to previous reporting by County 17, at every meeting since July, the commissioners have dedicated at least some time to addressing concerns over access to LGBTQ+ books at the library at the request of a small group of citizens, many of whom have openly admitted to acting on religious grounds.
Commissioners noted that the complaints led to meetings with library officials where they explained the process involved in challenging books that are available at the library.
“As a result of the comments, the Board has held two joint meetings with the Campbell County Public Library Board where additional comments were received, discussions held and questions fielded,” the board said. “During these meetings, the library collection and book challenge policies were discussed. The library has provided updates to this Board and the public on the status of the challenges it has received.”
The statement said now that the challenges of those books have been properly filed with the library, the library must be given time to process the challenges.
“The library is engaged in its book challenge process and although some may be displeased with the length of time required in completing this process, this process must be allowed to proceed to completion,” the statement said.
The library staff is currently working through about 40 challenges to books that residents consider obscene, according to County 17.
The commissioners’ decision was roundly criticized by Rep. Scott Clem who said the move amounted to censoring Campbell County residents.
“Looks like the county commission is trying to silence your right to free speech. Whether you agree with the library issue or not, to try and put a gag order on the public is something we should all stand against,” Clem wrote on social media. “What’s next? Are they going to tell the public they can’t speak about certain taxes, or covid restrictions, or (fill in the blank)? This is tyranny, and absolutely unconstitutional!”
Clem then included sections about the First Amendment from the U.S. Constitution and a number of portions from the Wyoming Constitution.