A library in westernMichigan reaches threat of closing within the next year after town residents voted against a tax that could have funded 84% of the facility’s budget, carrying out a fight over a book with LGBTQ+ themes on the library’s shelves.
On Tuesday, people in Jamestown Townshipvoted62% to 37% against approving a millage that could have been put on residents’ property taxes to be able to fund Patmos Library.
The vote followed a dispute over a book called “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe, which had appeared in the adult graphic novel section and prompted some residents to speak out contrary to the content at library board meetings earlier this season.
The library staff attemptedto compromise by placing the book behind the counter, however the residents formed an organization called Jamestown Conservatives and pressured neighbors to vote contrary to the millage, which may have added $24 to property taxes for the common home in the city.
Jamestown Conservatives objected to the author’s story of developing as nonbinary and passed out flyers reading, “Pray that people could make changes and make the Patmos Library a safe and neutral place for the children,” and warning that the library’s director was promoting “the LGBTQ ideology.”
The library director resigned in the spring, citing harassment and claims that she was “indoctrinating” children.
In accordance withBridge Michigan, yard signs also appeared prior to the vote reading, “50% millage increase to GROOM our children? Vote NO on Library!”
Minus the funding from the millage, library board president Larry Walton toldBridge, the library will probably go out of funding by nov 2023, following its reserves of $325,000 are employed up.
Maris Kreizman, books editor forVulture, called the vote “catastrophic.”
The potential closing of Patmos Librarywhich is only going to be avoided if the city votes again on renewing the millagecomes as Republican lawmakers at the federal, state, and local levels are promoting a nationwide battle over materials teachers and librarians can tell children. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantissigned a billearlier this season barring public school educators from having classroom discussions about gender identity and the LGBTQ+ community.
Republicans inat the very least 36 stateshave proposed or advanced bills to restrict public school lessons regarding racism, the contributions of individuals of specific races or ethnic backgrounds, along with other related issues.
The “panic” over gender identity and race discussions “was always a cover” to strip schools and libraries of public funding,saidJason Linkus, deputy editor ofThe New Republic.
The threat to Patmos Library “demonstrates why forces against public libraries, schools, and the taxes that purchase them are culture warring so difficult,”saidauthor and podcaster Jennifer Berkshire.
The vote in Jamestown followed amonthslong effortearlier this season by Ridgeland, Mississippi Mayor Gene McGee to withhold $110,000 in funding for the town’s library because its collection contained LGBTQ+ material. The mayor and libraryreached an agreementin April, with the town agreeing that it generally does not have the authority to limit what appears on the library’s shelves.
On Wednesday, Walton rejected a claim by Jamestown Conservatives that the vote is a “wake-up call” for the library staff.
“A wake-up call from what? To take LGBTQ books off the shelf and they’ll give us money? What can you call that? Ransom?” heaskedBridge.
“We stand behind the truth that our community comprises of an extremely diverse band of individuals,” Walton added, “and we as a library focus on the diversity of our community.”