New policy leads to abrupt end of library meeting
December 23, 2021
GILLETTE — The Campbell County Public Library board meeting on Monday came to an unscheduled end after the board members abruptly voted to adjourn.
The vote came about as a result of what some board members perceived to be disrespect from a resident who was appealing the library’s decision to keep a book in the teen section.
For more than five months, residents have criticized the library for including books that deal with sex and LGBTQ+ issues in the teen and children’s sections.
At the beginning of Monday’s meeting, the board adopted a protocol for public comments, including limiting them to three minutes and prohibiting people from giving their time to others. Additionally, all comments are to be directed to the board as a whole and not toward an individual board member.
Inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated, including trying to engage individual members in conversation, insults and profanities.
“If the speaker refuses to immediately conform their behavior, the speaker will be asked to leave,” said Charlie Anderson, who crafted the protocol.
If the behavior continues, the board may vote on a motion to end public comment and adjourn the meeting.
The board voted unanimously to adopt the protocol, and less than 90 minutes after it was adopted, it was applied.
Kevin Bennett was challenging the library’s decision to keep a book that he’d challenged, “Babysitters Coven” by Kate Williams, in the teen section.
The book is about “a coven of witchy babysitters who realize their calling to protect the innocent and save the world from an onslaught of evil,” according to the publisher’s website.
Bennett said the book encourages occult activity, as well as underage drinking.
He started out by pointing out the cover of the book, which shows a jacket that has a five-pointed star, an eight ball, a lollipop and a pink teddy bear head, all of which are symbols for more sinister things, Bennett said.
He quoted a review of the book from a left-leaning website that had a list of concerns on the book, including the cover being “a little queer-baity” even though there are no queer characters in the book.
Anderson asked Bennett if he was going to talk about the book, and he questioned the relevance of what Bennett was saying.
“It’s a complicated argument that needs to be made so I’m making every point of it,” Bennett said.
A short time later, Anderson asked, “Are you going to talk about the book?”
“Absolutely,” Bennett said. “Are you going to quit interrupting me so I can do that?”
“Mr. Bennett, please go on,” Anderson replied.
Anderson said the book is suggesting young girls use babysitting as a way to get involved with the occult. He pointed out examples in the book of magic and underage drinking.
Anderson asked if the same line of thought applies to “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Bennett said the hobbits in those books are in their 40s and 50s, well over the legal drinking age.
Additionally, while magic is a big part of “The Lord of the Rings,” those books are not deliberately encouraging young children to join the occult, Bennett said.
He said these are two completely different things, then pointed out that Anderson had interrupted him.
“I did,” Anderson said. “I’m hoping you’d talk about the book that we’re here to discuss.”
“That’s what I’m doing,” Bennett said. “What I’m doing is using data and sources to back up what I’m saying so it’s not just bubbling effervescent out of my brain face … I’m trying to actually use some facts here.”
“We’ve reached the point where disrespect has been displayed, I wish to adjourn the meeting,” said board member Miranda Finn.
“You might have to, because I’m going to finish what I’ve got to say, unless the cops drag me out of here,” Bennett said.
The board voted to adjourn the meeting.
“I guess we’re done,” Anderson said.
Bennett had been scheduled to challenge two other books, “Music from Another World,” by Robin Talley, and “A Quick Easy Guide to Queer & Trans Identities,” by Mandy G. and Jules Zuckerberg. The meeting ended before he got to these books.
Earlier, the board rejected an appeal to ban “Trans-Mission: My Quest To a Beard,” from the library. This book is a firsthand account of a transgender teen.
The book was challenged by Susan Sisti and Helen Hayden. Sisti asked that the book be removed from the library entirely.
Sisti said it has nothing to do with the LGBTQ community, and that it’s that the book is available to minors and promoting a dangerous lifestyle.
“We don’t want to put things like this in front of them because their brains are still developing,” she said.
Sisti said adults “can live as they want.”
“If someone’s 18 and they want to be a dog, it’s a free country,” she said.
Anderson asked Sisti if she was aware that the national organization MassResistance had a list of books that it finds inappropriate. Sisti said she did not know about the list.
“I do my own research,” she said.
Sisti said she’s spent “hours in the teen section,” where she found many books on display that were inappropriate.
Arthur Schaper, organization director of MassResistance, said the group does have a list of books, but that it’s compiled from complaints that people have brought to the group.
Sisti said parents everywhere are not happy with these books.
“All across our nation, people are challenging books and the public is waking up, and it’s just a matter of time before these books will be removed,” she said. “We’d like to see our library be on the forefront.”