Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon is reviewing the Wyoming State Library’s connection to the American Library Association over apparent political differences.
Gordon is reviewing the connection between the national ALA and the state’s libraries, Michael Pearlman, the governor’s spokesman, said in a Wednesday statement to Cowboy State Daily.
“The Governor recognizes the valuable role libraries play in civic life as a place for accessing information, learning and as a repository for history and knowledge,” reads Pearlman’s statement. “He is firmly committed to defending the First Amendment, a key tenet of our Constitution.”
Gordon believes a free society must value open and age-appropriate dialogue, the statement says.
But Gordon has “serious concerns” about whether the ALA is politicized under its current leadership.
“We are working together with the State Librarian to assess the value of the state’s current relationship with, and membership in the ALA,” the statement says.
First, Montana. Then The Freedom Caucus
Gordon’s statement came after the Montana State Library Commission voted July 11 to break from the ALA because the organization’s current president is a self-identified Marxist.
While Montana’s library system is run by a commission, Wyoming’s system is under an appointed director ultimately answerable to Gordon.
The Wyoming Freedom Caucus on Wednesday also called on the state library to cut ties with the American Library Association.
Consisting of social-conservative Republican lawmakers, the caucus urged Wyomingites in a mass email Wednesday to sign a petition calling on the Wyoming State Library to withdraw from the American Library Association.
The Wyoming Freedom Caucus’ disdain for the organization stems in part from ALA’s endorsement of numerous sexually graphic books for kids, according to the group’s email.
“These sexually explicit books are hardly intellectual material!” reads the email.
A Whole Century
Wyoming has been an ALA member for 99 years. It has benefitted from the group’s professional development opportunities, according to Pearlman.
Wyoming State Librarian Jamie Markus told Cowboy State Daily in a past interview that ALA membership leads to time and cost savings by consolidating valuable lessons and contacts at the same events.
Markus declined at that time to lend his personal thoughts on the organization, though he said he has many.
Conrrado Saldivar, president of ALA’s Wyoming chapter of the Wyoming Library Association, told Cowboy State Daily this month that ALA is just a resource, and a valuable one.
He fears Montana’s divorce from the organization will impact people in that state accessing materials and limit training access, Saldivar said.
What Happened In Campbell County
Wyoming’s Campbell County Library Board divorced the ALA long before Montana did, in October 2022.
Board Chair Sage Bear is the wife of Rep. John Bear, R-Gillette, who is the president of the Wyoming Freedom Caucus and who dispatched the mass email on the caucus’ behalf Wednesday.
“We’re grateful that the Campbell County … Library Board honored their oath to protect our youth from the sexually explicit materials being foisted on children,” says the email. “The Board’s actions were based on the ALA’s Bill of Rights stating that all people regardless of age have a right to access all material.”
The word “age” appears twice in the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights.
The fifth tenet says a person’s “right to use a library should not be denied or abridged” because of their age.
The seventh tenet says that all people regardless of age have a right to “privacy and confidentiality in their library use.”
‘How Do You Make A Baby?’
Many in Campbell County blamed the ALA’s influence for the presence of sexually graphic books in the children’s and teens’ sections of the Campbell County Public Library in Gillette.
These included “How Do You Make A Baby?” which depicts cartoon sex scenes in a second-grade reading-level book; and “Sex Is A Funny Word,” which shows a cartoon depiction of an 8-and-a-half year old character masturbating in a bathtub.
The books prompted Sage Bear and others to take action. The board voted 3-2 to add to the library’s mission statement the goal of reflecting community standards, and to cut ties with the ALA.
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.