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Fundraisers pass $100K for Michigan library defunded over LGBTQ books

library sign
LGBTQ-themed books that some Jamestown Township residents said they considered to be “indoctrinating” children led to the defunding of the public library. (Bridge photo by Ron French)
  • Fundraisers for a public library defunded over LGBTQ books have topped $100,000
  • Some of the books residents are upset about have same-sex themes but are not sexually explicit
  • Library officials plan to ask voters again in November to approve an operating millage

Aug. 29: Romance author Nora Roberts helps save MI library defunded over LGBTQ books

A library defunded by voters in a spat over LGBTQ books is coming closer to being saved by online donations.

Jamestown Township voters rejected an operating millage for the Patmos Public Library Aug. 2, punching an 84-percent hole in the library’s budget.

Sponsor

Since then, GoFundMe campaigns have surpassed $100,000 in donations, which library officials say could serve as stop-gap funding until the library makes another plea to voters to approve a property tax to support it.

Related:

Here’s an update – and images from two of the books residents cited as being inappropriate for children or teens.

What’s in the controversial books?

“Gender Queer: A Memoir” is currently the most banned book in the U.S. It is a graphic novel (in essence an adult comic book) that serves as an autobiography of the author coming to terms with being non-binary. It includes illustrations of sex acts.

At Patmos, “Gender Queer” was shelved in the adult graphic novel section. After complaints, the book was placed behind the library’s counter, where it is available upon request.

Two other books that some Jamestown Township residents complained about are tamer material.

Kiss Number 8” is a graphic novel about a girl who has kissed seven boys before realizing that she may want to kiss girls, specifically her female best friend. This is implied same-sex relationships, but no sex acts are depicted.

Spinning” is a graphic novel memoir of the author coming of age as a figure skater, and realizing she is attracted to girls. The book includes illustrations of same-sex relationships, but no nudity, according to former Patmos Interim director Matthew Lawrence

Is it unusual for libraries to carry these books?

It’s not uncommon for public libraries to have controversial books on their shelves, including some that have caused an uproar in Jamestown Township.

For example, Patmos Library is part of the Lakeland Library Cooperative. Among the 42 public libraries in eight west Michigan counties in the cooperative, seven carry “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” eight carry “Kiss Number 8,” and seven carry “Spinning.”

Have other libraries with these books faced protests or been defunded?

A handful of Michigan public libraries have faced public criticism over books, particularly those that are LGBTQ-themed and aimed at children or teens.

While there have been protests that have at times led to library staff resignations, there have been no other public libraries defunded over culture war issues, said Debbie Mikula, executive director of the Michigan Library Association.

In October 2021 in Georgetown Township, near Jamestown Township in Ottawa County, the township superintendent was instructed by the township’s finance committee to examine children’s books in the Georgetown Public Library to see if they were age-appropriate.

Lakeland Library Cooperative Carol Dawe told Bridge Michigan she was unaware if that township official had actually examined any books.

When will the library have to close?

The library will lose $245,000 in property tax in 2023 because of the loss of the millage. If the library fails to reinstate a millage, it will likely close sometime in 2023, said board president Larry Walton. The library has money in savings that could be used to keep the doors open for at least the first half of 2023.

Will residents be able to use other public libraries if Patmos closes?

Jamestown Township residents will lose free access to area public libraries if there is no library millage in the township. Policies regarding out-of-district use vary between libraries. Some do not allow non-residents to use any library resources. Others allow some use, but charge an annual fee of between $40 and $150.

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Are there efforts to save the library?

Two GoFundMe campaigns launched after the library was defunded had raised $103,000 by late afternoon Thursday, from more than 2,100 donors. That’s still less than half the $245,000 the library will lose because of the loss of the millage. 

What’s the next step?

The library board voted Monday to put a millage request back on the ballot for the November election. The board will meet Friday to finalize wording of the ballot measure.

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