GILLETTE – The Campbell County Public Library board meeting ended unexpectedly on Monday after board members abruptly voted to adjourn it.
The vote came in the wake of what some board members saw as a lack of respect from a resident who appealed the library’s decision to keep a book in the teens section .
For more than five months, residents criticized the library for including books dealing with sex and LGBTQ + issues in the teen and children’s sections.
At the start of Monday’s meeting, the board adopted a protocol for public comments, including limiting them to three minutes and prohibiting people from volunteering their time to others. Additionally, all comments should be directed to the board as a whole and not to an individual board member.
No inappropriate behavior will be tolerated, including attempting to engage individual members in conversation, insults and name-calling.
“If the speaker refuses to immediately comply with his behavior, he will be asked to leave,” said Charlie Anderson, who drew up the protocol.
If the behavior persists, council may vote on a motion to end public comments and adjourn the meeting.
The council voted unanimously to adopt the protocol, and within 90 minutes of its adoption, it was implemented.
Kevin Bennett was challenging the library’s decision to keep a book he had challenged, “Babysitters Coven” by Kate Williams, in the teen section.
The book is about “a group of witchy babysitters who are fulfilling 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 began by pointing out the cover of the book, which shows a jacket with a five-pointed star, an eight-pointed ball, a lollipop and a pink teddy bear head, all of which are symbols of more sinister things, said Bennett.
He cited a review of the book from a left-wing website that had a list of concerns about the book, including the cover being “a little weird” 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.
âIt’s a complicated argument that needs to be made, so I make every point of it,â Bennett said.
Shortly after, Anderson asked, âAre you going to talk about the book?
âAbsolutely,â Bennett said. “Are you going to stop interrupting me so I can do this?” “
âMr. Bennett, please continue,â Anderson replied.
Anderson said the book suggested young girls use childcare as a way to get involved in the occult. He pointed to examples in the book of magic and underage drinking.
Anderson asked if the same reasoning applied to the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Bennett said the hobbits in those books are between 40 and 50 years old, well over the legal drinking age.
Additionally, although magic is an integral part of “The Lord of the Rings,” these books do not deliberately encourage young children to join the occult, Bennett said.
He said they’re two completely different things, then pointed out that Anderson had cut him off.
âI did it,â Anderson said. âI hope you will talk about the book that we are here to discuss. “
âIt’s what I do,â Bennett said. “What I’m doing is using data and sources to back up what I’m saying, so it’s not just an effervescent bubbling of my brainâ¦ I’m trying to use some facts here.”
âWe have reached the point where disrespect has been displayed, I wish to adjourn the meeting,â said Miranda Finn, board member.
âYou might have to do this, because I’m going to finish what I have to say, unless the cops drag me out of here,â Bennett said.
Council voted to adjourn the meeting.
âI guess we’re done,â Anderson said.
Bennett was 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 those books.
Previously, the board had rejected a call to ban “Trans-Mission: My Quest To a Beard” from the library. This book is the first-hand account of a transgender teenager.
The book was disputed by Susan Sisti and Helen Hayden. Sisti requested that the book be taken out of the library entirely.
Sisti said it has nothing to do with the LGBTQ community and the book is accessible to minors and promotes an unsafe lifestyle.
âWe don’t want to present them with such things because their brains are still developing,â she said.
Sisti said adults “can live however they want”.
âIf someone is 18 and wants to be a dog, it’s a free country,â she said.
Anderson asked Sisti if she was aware that the national organization MassResistance had a list of books that it deemed inappropriate. Sisti said she didn’t know the list.
âI’m doing my own research,â she said.
Sisti said she spent âhours in the teenage section,â where she found many books on display that were inappropriate.
Arthur Schaper, organization director for MassResistance, said the group has a list of books, but it’s compiled from complaints people have made to the group.
Sisti said parents around the world are not happy with these books.
âAll over our country people are defying books and the public is waking up, and it’s only a matter of time before these books are taken down,â she said. âWe would like our library to be at the forefront.