JACKSON — Amid ongoing criticism of books about sex and gender in Wyoming public libraries, Teton County Library is implementing a new anti-censorship policy that supports librarians’ right to keep disputed titles on shelves.
“The Library does not stand in loco parentis,” or in place of parents, the new policy states. “Responsibility for materials selected and read by children and adolescents rests with the youth’s parents or legal guardians.”
Promoted by the library’s new director, Kip Roberson, and approved last month by its board, the “intellectual freedom policy” goes into effect Jan. 1. It overhauls the previous materials review process, which Roberson said primarily gave frustrated parents an opportunity to air their grievances.
“It has never progressed beyond a conversation with the librarian,” he said at the board meeting.
But the situation in Campbell County, where residents have challenged more than 20 titles and called for criminal investigations into the library board and director, prompted library administrators in Jackson to get ahead of a similar situation with a new, proactive policy.
“Our intellectual freedom policy has been put into place in order to ensure that the Library is a welcoming place for readers to discover and learn about the world in its great diversity,” Roberson wrote to the News&Guide.
“The Library takes seriously its commitment to help all people, including those from marginalized communities, find and use books that speak to their individual needs. This policy helps clarify the importance of balancing community and individual needs with the Constitutional right to free speech and access to information.”
In Campbell County, prosecutors decided not to pursue charges, saying there wouldn’t be a viable case against the library, the Gillette News Record first reported. The Campbell County Library Board also rebuffed some of the criticism by declining to remove books about sex, gender identity and LGBTQ issues from the teen section following an internal review process.
Teton County residents can receive a reconsideration form (along with a copy of the American Library Association Bill of Rights, the Jackson branch mission statement and materials selection policy) to submit to the library director. A reconsideration committee comprised of the director, the collection services manager and an employee in charge of the subject or genre in question will cross-reference the questioned material against their existing policies before delivering a written verdict and an explanation of the committee’s decision.
That process mirrors the library’s existing protocol but expands the initial determination to include more employees, ensuring the review remains objective rather than based on personal beliefs.
“The selection of library materials is made on the patron’s right to read, listen, or view, free from censorship by others,” the new policy states. “The Library holds censorship to be a purely individual matter and declares that while anyone is free to reject books and other materials of which they do not approve, they may not restrict the freedom of others.”