In a shocking move, a Michigan township just voted overwhelmingly to defund its local library following a kerfuffle over an oft-challenged LGBTQ book that was available there. Angry that the book remained on the shelves, members of the community decided to cut off funding to the library.
While many are taking a victory lap, some locals are now having buyer’s… err, voter’s remorse.
Banning Books for Jesus
Jamestown Township, a small community of about 8,000 residents southwest of Grand Rapids, is the latest front in the war on queer books in public libraries.
The battle between Jamestown Township parents and the Patmos Library board apparently started earlier this year, when a concerned parent raised their objections over a graphic novel aimed at young adults that depicts same-sex relationships and has gay themes. The book, Gender Queer: A Memoir, by Maia Kobabe, was noted as the most challenged book of 2021 by the American Library Association.
Despite the book in question being in the adult section in the library – and later moved behind a counter – community outrage kept building. When the library board refused to remove the book entirely, things began to spiral out of control. Library board meetings, which once drew only a handful of citizens, suddenly had upwards of 50 residents in attendance.
The library board wouldn’t budge on removing Gender Queer and other books with gay themes, arguing that the library should serve everyone. Spurned by the board, a local group called the Jamestown Conservatives took things into their own hands.
Bye Bye Budget
On Facebook, the group says its purpose is to “help others of the community to be aware of the pushed agenda of explicit sexual content that is being infiltrated into our local libraries aiming toward our children.”
They say they “stand to keep our children safe, and protect their purity, as well as to keep the nuclear family intact as God designed.”
The group organized a campaign against the library, pushing local residents to reject the library’s millage on the upcoming ballot (the millage funds the library via property taxes).
Flyers were distributed all over town, and yard signs sprouted up – often with controversial or even outrageous accusations.
The plan worked. Despite generally being noncontroversial, the millage failed by some 25 points.
With this fateful decision, the town essentially voted to close their only library. Most of the library’s funds are now unexpectedly gone, and library officials estimate they can only make it through the first quarter of 2023.
“There will be a definitive point in time that the library will be potentially closed down due to this,” says Patmos Library board of trustees chair Larry Walton.
Even one of the campaign organizers implied she didn’t think the library would actually shutter its doors, saying the vote was intended as a “wake-up call” to bend to the community instead.
The fate of the community’s only library is now very much in doubt. They can try and get another millage motion on the ballot in November, but that is just a few short months away, and could potentially fail again, as it’s clear the board refuses to remove LGBTQ books entirely.
As the fight over what books belong on library shelves continues to spread across the country, many are worrying about the future of public libraries.
What do you think? Is it right for a community to hold their local library hostage over materials they find objectionable? What does this mean for public libraries moving forward?