Defunded over LGBTQ books, Michigan library will try tax again in November
- A township library was defunded in a spat over LGBTQ-themed books
- Without property tax support, the library would close in 2023
- The library board voted Monday to take a second shot at a millage in November
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JAMESTOWN TOWNSHIP — An Ottawa County library will ask voters for funding for a second time, in November, after residents in this small town voted last week to reject a millage because of the continued presence of LGBTQ-themed books on library shelves.
The library board voted Monday night to put the same millage that was soundly defeated Aug. 2 on the ballot in the general election and hope for the best. The tax accounts for about 84 percent of the library’s budget. The current millage is set to expire this year.
If the millage request is defeated again in November, the library will likely close sometime in 2023.
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That would leave the township’s nearly 10,000 residents without access to the collection’s 65,000 books and videos, and to the library’s community room, the wifi some residents depend upon, and wifi hotspots residents without regular Internet access can check out.
Jamestown Township residents who go to other area public libraries would be charged an out-of-district fee of between $40 and $150 per year if the November vote also fails, said Patmos Library Board President Larry Walton.
Following Bridge Michigan’s chronicle of the defeated millage last week, two GoFundMe campaigns were launched that had raised more than $73,000 as of Monday evening from more than 1,200 donors from as far away as Australia. Still, that sum is far short of the $245,000 the library would lose if the current tax expires at the end of this year.
Last week’s "no" vote received international attention. Organizers of the “vote no” campaign acknowledged at the time that they were motivated by a handful of LGBTQ graphic novels that remained on the library shelves, kept there by library officials despite protests from those who felt they weren’t appropriate.
That battle shows no signs of ending.
Monday night, about 100 people attended the library board meeting, held in the main room of the library to accommodate the overflowing crowd. Some sat in chairs, while others leaned against waist-high shelving units of the library’s children section. The crowd stretched from shelves filled with picture books, past young reader Spanish-language books and junior fiction, to young adult graphic novels, where some of the books that had sparked the troubles are shelved.
The six-member library board sat at tables in the children’s section where a puppet theater normally is set up. They listened as a parade of residents on each side of the battle stepped to a podium positioned near a display of holiday picture books to call each other “groomers,” “extremists” and “Marxists.”
One resident said it was “Satan’s goal” to “groom and indoctrinate children” about “homosexuality.”
Several who said they voted no said they hoped the library board would listen to “God’s truth” and either remove the books, put them behind the counter or label them in some fashion.
Former Patmos library employee Cierra Bakovka disagreed, reminding residents that they were sitting in a “public library, not a church library.”
Among the controversial books is “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” which includes illustrations of sex acts. That book, which had been shelved in the adult section of the library, is now located behind the counter.
Several other books with illustrations of same-sex relationships are in the library’s young adult section.
One speaker critical of LGBTQ-themed books in children or young adult sections of the library said she didn’t want a “sexual ideology pushed on our kids.”
“You’ve got passion on both sides,” township resident Mike Herman told Bridge during a break in the meeting. “You’re not going to solve that tonight.
“But you’ve got a practical issue of doing something to keep the library open.”
Walton, the board president, said he hoped that in a general election, when more people vote, the millage will pass — particularly now that residents know the alternative is to lock the library doors.
Dean Smith, chairman of the township planning commission, who voted no on the millage, said he will do so again in November. He told Bridge that he suspected the millage will pass in that election.
“No one wants to see the library close,” Smith said. “We wanted to send a message. We knew we could do that in a primary when fewer people vote.”
Smith said the vote to defund the library was a backlash in the conservative community to a culture some view as antagonistic to their beliefs.
“Judeo-Christian people have been marginalized and portrayed as haters, rubes, uneducated,” Smith said. “And people have just had enough of that type of thing.”
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