Sparks Fly At Heated Riverton Library Meeting Over American Library Association

A nationwide controversy over whether the American Library Association still serves local libraries or is trying to radicalize them boiled over in Riverton during a heated library board meeting.

Clair McFarland

February 29, 20246 min read

Riverton branch of the Fremont County Library.
Riverton branch of the Fremont County Library. (Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily)

RIVERTON — A nationwide controversy over whether the American Library Association still serves local libraries or is trying to radicalize them has manifested in Fremont County as a spat between library board members.

The Fremont County Library Board met in Riverton for a public meeting earlier this month to revise its internet use policy. The board also voted recently to ban all pornography from library computers and to put internet filters on computers used by kids.

‘There’s The Door’

Board Secretary Marta Mossburg made a motion to strike language linking the library’s internet policy to that of the American Library Association (ALA).

Board member Kristen McClelland agreed.

But Anita Marple, Fremont County libraries director, did not.

“We’ve relied on (ALA guidance) ever since ALA has existed and we’ve been a library system,” said Marple. “ALA is still a governing body providing advice and principles for good librarianship.”

Mossburg, however, said she has no use for the organization and neither should the Fremont County library.

“I can’t stand ALA and I want nothing to do with them,” she said.

Board Chairwoman Carrie Johnson interjected: “There’s the door. Why are you on this board?”

“Because I love this library,” said Mossburg. “Why do you love the ALA?”

Johnson said she sees the ALA as a valuable resource for library employees.

Board Vice-Chair Perry Cook urged members to look at the ALA as a resource with good points they could use and bad points they could ignore.

“Historically, they have provided many resources, but they’ve become so politicized,” said Mossburg. “I don’t know why I have to like this in order to serve on this board or to represent the people of this county.”

Johnson said she disagreed with Mossburg’s desire to divorce from the ALA altogether.  

“That’s fine, but you can’t tell me it’s the door,” said Mossburg. “I was appointed too. I don’t work for you Carrie.”

“No, I agree, you don’t,” said Johnson. “You work for our library.”

Mossburg said Johnson was questioning her sincerity, which Johnson didn’t deny.

Johnson said the ALA discussion was “only one” of the reasons she did so.

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Tense, Yes

Johnson did not respond directly to a Cowboy State Daily request for comment on the exchange.

The encounter was tense, but it was a healthy discussion, Marple said in a Wednesday email to Cowboy State Daily.  

Mossburg said she was appalled with the exchange and at first called for Johnson to resign, but has since received an apology and is no longer seeking Johnson’s resignation.

“(I) sent her a letter the following day asking for a formal apology and her resignation as chair for her incivility and disregard for Robert’s Rules, which we follow and which are essential for navigating contentious topics with tact and fairness,” Mossburg said in a Tuesday email.  

Robert’s Rules of Order is a code of tact for board and committee meetings.

Johnson called Mossburg a few days after the exchange, made a full apology and promised to do better, according to Mossburg. The women also met for coffee.

“I forgave her and told her I would no longer seek her resignation as chair, but expected to be treated with respect regardless of our viewpoint differences,” Mossburg said.

As For This Organization

Marple and Johnson sent a joint statement Wednesday on the ALA’s role in the Fremont County Library System (FCLS), saying the group voices a commitment to supporting library services and staff.

“This coincides with the FCLS commitment to providing quality library service and supporting the development of library staff,” says the statement.

The FCLS general policies reference the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights as foundational principles for serving the community fairly, without bias, and without a political agenda, the women’s statement continues.

That Bill of Rights is a “guiding, non-binding document,” the statement continues, adding that the board of directors is responsible for policy decisions.

‘Radical Progressive Ideas’

Mossburg said the ALA is not benign, but seeks to indoctrinate communities with radical progressive ideas, and offers training sessions that would politicize rather than enliven the library.

ALA President Emily Drabinski is a self-declared “Marxist lesbian.”

Mossburg said the group pushes for training and legislation to erode community values and undermine parents who object to public school library material – and it aids in lawsuits against parents and others who oppose its collection policies.

“And since it accredits university library science degrees, it controls what all future librarians are taught,” she said.

Mossburg said ALA’s policies “explicitly protect pornography,” despite the dangers of exposing kids to pornography.

“I don’t think it should be in our library and think that we as a board should follow the standards of Fremont County, not unelected or appointed political operatives in Chicago,” she said.

The organization has been scrutinized by other Wyoming public library systems. The Campbell County Public Library cut ties with the ALA in October 2022.

ALA Says Kids Should Have ‘Equal’ Access

The ALA does have a “legal support” arm, the Freedom to Read Foundation, which defends libraries’ curation choices and patrons’ access to them.

Its Library Bill of Rights insists that kids and adults should have “equal and equitable access” to library materials.

“Libraries and their library governing bodies should not resort to age restrictions in an effort to avoid actual or anticipated objections,” says the group’s website, adding that courts of law should sort out which materials were constitutionally protected.

All community members should have access to library materials “regardless of content, approach, or format,” the ALA insists in an analysis of its Library Bill of Rights.

ALA also opposes filtering public library computers.

Wyoming Stays

Some state library systems have broken ties with the organization, including Montana, Missouri, Texas and Alabama.

Wyoming has not done so.

Gov. Mark Gordon questioned the ALA last year about some of its more political tactics, but also resisted a letter from 13 state lawmakers demanding he pull the Wyoming State Library from the organization.

“The letter implies that Wyoming citizens – Wyoming parents – are not capable of deciding how best to govern themselves and need the self-appointed morality police to show them the way,” Gordon said in a statement.

Clair McFarland can be reached at

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter