Fired Wyoming Library Director Tells CNN No 'Pornography' In Gillette Library

In an interview aired Thursday on CNN, ousted Campbell County Public Library Director Terri Lesley said despite concerns by many parents in Gillette, children could never access “pornography” at the library.

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Clair McFarland

August 17, 20235 min read

Former Campbell County Public Library Director Terri Lesley discuses her firing in an interview on CNN on Thursday.
Former Campbell County Public Library Director Terri Lesley discuses her firing in an interview on CNN on Thursday. (CNN)

National news site CNN on Thursday televised an interview with the former Campbell County Public Library director, who was fired July 28 after a spat over which books are obscene for children.  

The Campbell County Library Board fired Terri Lesley after months of sparring over the definition of obscenity, and whether to move or remove sexually explicit books from juvenile sections of the library.  

CNN’s Phil Mattingly interviewed Lesley by video link, posting the story Thursday.  

“The librarian Terri Lesley wouldn’t budge,” Mattingly said, “in part because she believes the community is harmed by not having access to a wide variety of information.”  

He asked Lesley if there was any merit to the board’s claims that books that are sexually inappropriate for minors remain in the library.  

“There’s nothing in the library that could be classified as pornography in any way, shape or form,” said Lesley. “We do have some sex education books and biology books,things like that, that are important for youth to have access to in case they have questions.”  

Lesley then said that some books contain LGBTQ themes, and she felt like that was the real issue.  

“The LGBTQ part of that was a big part of what the complaints from the public were about,” she said.  

‘I’m Embarrassed For This Board’ 

CNN showed snippets of the aired library board meeting where members voted 4-1 to fire Lesley.  

The main snippet was of Campbell County resident Nick Jessen, rebuking the board.  

“When you start outlawing books because of your personal, religious and moral beliefs in this country, you’re going against the Constitution; you’re going against what we were founded for,” said Jessen in the CNN clip. “This is a shit show, and I’m embarrassed for this board.”  

In portions of his speech that CNN did not air, Jessen compared the library board’s anti-obscenity efforts to the Nazis’ book-burning crusades.  

The large, unruly crowd yelled at the board and cheered on Lesley throughout the meeting.  

Watch on YouTube

Read The Books 

There were also meeting attendees who spoke in favor the board’s decision whom CNN did not air. 

One was Susan Sisti of Gillette, who implied that community members’ fury at Lesley’s ousting could be due to their own ignorance of what is in the books.  

“I know a lot of people have not read the books. They don’t understand what’s in them,” said Sisti, adding the materials included narratives about father-on-daughter incestuous rape.  

“And at the end of the narrative, the daughter wants more,” Sisti continued. “That’s not educational, therapeutic. It’s some man’s fantasy.”  

Sisti confirmed later to Cowboy State Daily she was referring to “Identical,” by Ellen Hopkins. The novel tracks a teenage girl named Kaeleigh and her twin, Raeanne. Their father rapes Kaeleigh frequently, and Raeanne envies their bond. Raeanne turns to drugs and promiscuous, sometimes torturous, sex. She tries to seduce her teacher.  

Both girls are bulimic. Kaeleigh enjoys cutting herself. In the end, Kaeleigh tries to kill herself and has a mental breakdown. 

But then she learns that her twin Raeleigh actually died when their father drunkenly wrecked their car when they were 10, and she’s been using Raeleigh’s identity like a hedonistic alter ego the whole time.  

The book is in the young-adult collections of the Wright and Gillette libraries in Campbell County.  

It’s also in young-adult sections in the Big Horn (Lovell), Converse (Douglas), Crook (Moorcroft and Sundance), Goshen, Laramie (Cheyenne and Pine Bluffs), Lincoln (Kemmerer), Natrona, Park County (Meeteetse and Powell), Platte, Sublette (Big Piney), Sweetwater (Farson, Rock Springs and Reliance), Uinta (Mountain View) and Weston County public libraries, according to the state’s card catalog.  

The catalog shows the book in the Sundance Secondary School, Moorcroft High School and Hulett High School Libraries, and in the Dubois School Library.  

Another Ellen Hopkins Book? 

Lesley at the July 28 board meeting said she was unclear on just what books the board wanted her to move.  

The only book the board had recently indicated was another Ellen Hopkins book, “Tricks,” she said.  

“I explained to the board that this book was a book designed for teens,” she said. “And my concern was that if staff would remove this book, it would be in violation of the First Amendment, without any legal process.” 

“Tricks” follows five teens, starting with their erotic fantasies and personal issues, and following them into their lives in prostitution.  

Ellen Hopkins is a repeat offender for local boards in Wyoming. The Natrona County School Board reviewed and upheld books from her “Crank” series about teenhood methamphetamine addiction earlier this year.  

Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter