Michigan Town votes for library funding over LGBTQ+ materials
A West Michigan library is at risk of closing next year after city residents voted against a tax that would have funded 84% of the facility’s budget, following a book fight with LGBTQ+ themes on the library shelves.
On Tuesday, residents of Jamestown Township voted 62% to 37% against approving a mileage that would have been applied to residents’ property taxes to fund the Patmos Library.
“We support the fact that our community is made up of a very diverse group of individuals, and we as a library respond to the diversity of our community.”
The vote followed a dispute over a book titled Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe, who had appeared in the adult graphic novel section and prompted some residents to speak out against the content at library board meetings earlier this year.
Library staff tried to compromise by putting the book behind the counter, but residents formed a group called the Jamestown Conservatives and pressured neighbors to vote against the mileage, which would have added $24 to property taxes for the average home in town.
Jamestown curators took issue with the author’s story of coming out as non-binary and handed out flyers saying, ‘Pray that we can bring about change and make the library on Patmos a safe and neutral place for our children,” and warning that the library director was promoting “LGBTQ ideology.”
The library director resigned in the spring, citing harassment and saying she was “indoctrinating” children.
According Michigan Bridgesigns also appeared ahead of the vote reading “50% mileage increase to GENERATE our kids? Vote NO to the library!”
Without mileage funding, library board chair Larry Walton said Bridgethe library will likely run out of funding by fall 2023, after its $325,000 reserves run out.
Maris Kreizman, book editor for Vulturecalled the vote “catastrophic”.
The potential closure of the Patmos Library — which will only be averted if the city votes again on renewing the mileage — comes as Republican lawmakers at the federal, state and local levels promote a national battle over materials that teachers and librarians can share with children. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill earlier this year banning public school educators from having classroom discussions about gender identity and the LGBTQ+ community.
Republicans in at least 36 states have proposed or advanced bills to restrict classes in public schools regarding racism, contributions from people of specific races or ethnicities, and other related issues.
“Panic” over discussions of gender identity and race “has always been a cover” to deprive schools and libraries of public funding, said Jason Linkus, associate editor of The New Republic.
The threat to the library on Patmos “demonstrates why the forces opposed to public libraries, schools, and the taxes that pay them wage such a harsh war on culture.” said author and podcaster Jennifer Berkshire.
The vote in Jamestown follows a months-long effort earlier this year by Ridgeland, Mississippi Mayor Gene McGee to withhold $110,000 in funding for the city’s library because its collection contained LGBTQ+ material. . The mayor and the library reached an agreement in April, with the city agreeing that it does not have the authority to limit what appears on library shelves.
On Wednesday, Walton dismissed a claim by Jamestown Conservatives that the vote would be a “red flag” for library staff.
“A wake-up call to what? To take LGBTQ books off the shelf and then they’ll give us money? What do you call it? A ransom?” He asked Bridge.
“We support the fact that our community is made up of a very diverse group of individuals,” Walton added, “and we as a library respond to the diversity of our community.”