A library in west Michigan may be forced to close after residents voted to defund it for including LGBTQ books in its offerings. The people of Jamestown Township, a politically conservative community, rejected a millage to support the Patmos Library, meaning the library has no budget to operate in 2023. Roughly 84% of its $245,000 annual budget comes from property taxes included in the millage, meaning the library is likely on its way out.
A public library in West Michigan may close after residents voted to defund it. Why?
Voters are upset about LGBTQ-themed graphic novels in the library.
— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) August 4, 2022
- The library will run out of money soon. Library board president Larry Walton said that without the millage, the library will likely have no money by sometime in 2023. “I wasn’t expecting anything like this,” he told Bridge Michigan. “The library is the center of the community. For individuals to be short-sighted to close that down over opposing LGBTQ is very disappointing.”
- This isn’t the first time conservatives have taken aim at libraries. All over Michigan, conservatives have protested books with LGBTQ storylines and themes at public libraries and school board meetings. However, the vote to defund the Patmos Library is the first time a community has actually voted to close the entire place rather than have it open and available to the public while including a few LGBTQ books.
- Libraries across the state are in danger. Debbie Mikula, executive director of the Michigan Library Association, says that roughly 40 library millages are on voting ballots across the state. While most of them thankfully passed, a few others did not. However, she was quick to point out that none of the ones that failed seemed to be because of anti-LGBTQ sentiment.
- Residents believe LGBTQ books are “indoctrinating” children. The adult graphic novel section, for instance, includes a book called Gender Queer: A Memoir. It includes the author’s story of coming out as nonbinary and includes sexual illustrations. Residents wanted it removed altogether, but library staff moved it behind the counter so that no children would accidentally see it. However, it wasn’t long before residents began complaining about any and all LGBT books, no matter how non-sexual they were.
- Access to LGBTQ books is so important for young people. As local resident Salem Sousley, who identifies as nonbinary, points out, it’s “incredibly important” for young people to have stories they can relate to. “When I was growing up in Jenison (in Ottawa County), the language of who I was as a nonbinary person didn’t exist yet. When I read ‘Gender Queer,’ it was the first time I ever saw myself represented in a book,” they explained. “So many kids are struggling in silence, especially in areas like this. Having access to resources and materials of people who are sharing your experiences is literally life-saving.”
This is catastrophic. We cannot let them defund libraries. https://t.co/acVnpoyBAU
— Maris Kreizman (@mariskreizman) August 4, 2022