DETROIT — A Michigan library will close after voters reject funding for the second time because library staff refused to remove LGBTQ books.
A Tax to Fund the Patmos Library for the Next 10 Years failed in the August primary in Jamestown Charter Township, meaning it lost 84% of its funding for operations. The measure reappeared on Tuesday’s midterm vote in hopes that, with more residents aware of the issue, it would be passed.
It failed again. Only 5,500 residents of the approximately 10,000 in the township just southwest of Grand Rapids voted for the millage, and 55.8% voted “no.” Without tax money, the library will close. When exactly that will happen is not yet known.
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Book bans and education reform became key talking points for Michigan’s Republican candidates on the campaign trail, contributing to the growing national movement. PEN America published a report in September on banned books across the country, finding that 41% of those books contained LGBTQ-themed books and 40% featured prominent color characters.
What LGBTQ book led to calls to fund the library?
The book that sparked calls to pull LGBTQ books off Patmos’ shelves is one of the most banned books in the country, “Gender Queer: A Memoir.” Patmos Library declined to ban the book, but removed it from its adult section and placed it behind the counter. Interested readers should specifically ask for it.
Residents also wanted to ban “Kiss Number 8” and “Spinning,” both graphic novels in which girls realize they want to kiss other girls. Neither contains nudity.
Jamestown Township resident Donna Rotman, an opponent of the library’s books, which she describes as “graphic sexual dialogue and storytelling,” said at an Aug. 8 board meeting that “tax dollars should never be spent (on) taking care of children.” .”
“No child has an innate sense of being genderqueer or genderfluid. It’s manipulative, destructive and wrong.”
How long can the library stay open without money?
A GoFundMe for the library raised about $265,000 with the help of author Nora Roberts, but it won’t be enough to last long-term, the Patmos Library Board said in a plea to voters who were killed just before the election. released.
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“It means a lot that people are behind this library and our community,” the Patmos Library Board said in a plea to voters who were released just before the election. “The financial support for the library is incredible and will help us get through the immediate crisis. However, we know very clearly that this library must remain open in the long term, which is the extension of the 10-year levy in November. We cannot run the Patmos Public Library for the next ten years without stable taxpayer support. … If the levy fails, we will put these donations to work in the best possible way for as long as possible.”
What have residents said about the loss of the city’s only library?
Connor Cook, a 26-year-old gay man who grew up in Jamestown and now studies medicine at Wayne State University, said he was shocked to discover it had failed. Losing access to the township’s only library will have a significant impact on the community, he said, especially as many families homeschool their children and many of them learn to read in libraries.
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“I really assumed it would pass because I’ve been home twice since the primary and just talked to the neighbors, most of them were quite shocked that it happened by chance,” he said. “Not that they’re more affirmative for (LGBTQ) people or anything, they just like the concept of having a library.”
Cook grew up in the Patmos library and spent time with the librarians; it was his safe place in a very religious and conservative city. He said he is concerned about the LGBTQ children who still live in the township and see their community’s reaction to who they are.
“I can imagine it feels very isolating. I remember how scared I felt – I had absolutely no friends who knew I was gay or who I knew were gay until college – so the isolation must be pretty intense be,” Cook said. “No one wins in this and the people who lose first are our children.”
“We’re not going anywhere, so I hope your kids have a library.”
Please contact Emma Stein: firstname.lastname@example.org.