A small-town library may be closed because residents of Jamestown, Michiganvoted to defund rather than condone certain LGBTQ+-themed books.
Residents voted Tuesday to block the renewal of funds tied to property taxes, Michigan Bridge reported
With the vote, the library has funds until the first quarter of next year. Once the reserve fund is exhausted, it will be forced to close, library board chairman Larry Walton told Bridge Michigan, which hurts not only readers, but the entire community. In addition to books, residents visit the library for the Wi-Fi, he said, and it’s in the room where the vote was held.
“Our libraries are places to read, gather, socialize, study, learn. I mean, they’re the heart of every community,” Michigan Library Association Executive Director Deborah Mikula told The Guardian. “So how can you lose it?”
“We are champions of access,” she added, including material that may appeal to some members of the community and not others. “We want to ensure that libraries protect the right to read.
The controversy in Jamestown began with a complaint about a non-binary writer’s memoir, but soon escalated into a campaign against the Patmos library itself. After a parent complained about Maia Kobabe’s graphic novel about the author’s experience, Gender Queer: a Memoir, being published as non-binary, dozens of people attended library board meetings demanding the institution drop the book. (The book featuring sex was in the adult section of the library.) Complaints were directed at other books with LGBTQ+ themes.
One library director resigned and told Bridge that she had been harassed and accused of indoctrinating children; her successor also left the job. Although the library placed Kobabe’s book behind the counter rather than on the shelves, the volumes remained available.
“We, the board, are not going to ban books,” Walton told The Associated Press on Thursday.
After the library refused to comply, a campaign was launched urging residents to vote against renewed library funding. A group calling itself the Jamestown Conservatives distributed flyers condemning the library director for “promoting LGBTQ ideology” and calling for the library to be made a “safe and neutral place for our children.” Enabled Facebook, the group says it exists to “protect our children and protect their purity, and to keep the nuclear family intact as God designed it.”
Residents ultimately voted 62% to 37% against the measure, which would have raised property taxes by about $24 to fund the library, although they approved similar measures to fund the fire station and road work. Mikula said the library was one of the few in the state to experience such a loss: “Most have gone great, sometimes up to 80 percent.”
The vote comes as libraries across the U.S. face a barrage of calls to ban the books. The American Library Association last year identified 729 challenges to “library, school, and university materials and services,” resulted in about 1,600 challenges or eliminations individual books. It was from 273 books last year and is “the highest number of attempts to ban books since we started compiling these lists 20 years ago,” ALA President Patricia Wong said in a press release.
“We’re seeing a campaign to remove books, particularly books about LGBTQIA topics and books about racism,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom. said The Guardian last year.. Famous books by Toni Morrison, Alison Bechdel and Ibram X Kendi are among those facing bans.
“I’m not entirely sure what caused the culture wars we’re seeing, but libraries are definitely at the forefront,” Mikula said. Indeed, as are states across the United States advance LGBTQ+ rightsALA book no. 1 “Most Challenged” last year was Gender Queer.
“When you take those books off the shelf or publicly challenge them in the community, you’re saying to any young person who identifies with that narrative, ‘We don’t want your story here,'” Kobabe said. to New York time In May.
Mikula noted that each library selects its own collection, an intensive process that involves keeping up with what’s new, listening to what’s being requested, and “purging” infrequently loaned collections.
“Our librarians are qualified. They have advanced degrees,” she said. “We want to make sure that the people who have been hired to do this work are credible and that they make sure that the whole community is represented in their library.” And that means having LGBTQ books.
If members of the community object to certain books being included, there is a formal means of requesting their removal, involving a review committee and ensuring that the person making the appeal has actually read the book in question. But lately, she said, people “have been going to board meetings, whether it’s a library board meeting or a school board meeting, and they’re saying, ‘Here’s a list of 300 books.’ We want them all removed from your library. And it’s not the right channel, but they’re loud and their voices don’t go up.