Across the U.S., libraries are under attack. “Being a librarian is less and less about books and more and more about community survival,” Lisa Bubert wrote in a recent Longreads reading list. In a dispatch for Mother Jones, Kiera Butler describes how this battle plays out in the small town of Gillette, Wyoming—a place that has always been obsessed with its children. In October 2022, Gillette’s Campbell County Public Library was the first in the nation to sever ties with the American Library Association, citing the ALA’s Marxist agenda and indoctrination of youth. “The idea of protecting children animates much of American life,” writes Butler. “What does that mean when that same impulse drives the culture war?” 

But most everyone agreed that the library drama started with a single July 2021 Facebook post, in which a county commissioner expressed disapproval of the gay pride month display the library had put up. Soon a dozen or so people signed up to speak at the Board of Commissioners meeting, in a radical departure where the five elected commissioners usually skipped the public comment sessions because of lack of interest. This time comments lasted for more than an hour. “Parents should be informed of the queer agenda the library is implementing,” said one attendee. Another railed against the idea of a pride display in the library. “If we’re not encouraging heterosexuality among teenagers for a month in the public library,” he said, “we definitely should not be doing that with sexual identities that are known to cause things like suicide and HIV.” A stern-looking woman thundered against the young adult room. “I know about their dark basement for the teens, and enough is enough,” she said. Later that month, a local pastor posted on Facebook that he had discovered that the magician who was scheduled to perform at the library was transgender. The magician canceled her show after reportedly receiving threats.

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.