A small town library is in danger of closing after the residents of Jamestown, Michiganvoted to defund rather than tolerate some books with LGBTQ+ themes.
Residents voted, Tuesday, to prevent the renewal of funds related to property taxes, Michigan Bridge mentioned.
Voting leaves the library with funds until the first quarter of next year. Once a reserve fund is used, it will have to close — to the detriment of not just readers but the community as a whole, Larry Walton, chair of the Library Board, told Michigan Bridge. In addition to books, residents visit the library for its wifi, he said, and includes the very room in which the voting took place.
“Our libraries are places to read, places to gather, places to socialize, places to study, places to learn. I mean, they are the heart of every community,” Deborah Mikola, executive director of the Michigan Library Association, told The Guardian.
“We are champions in access,” she added, including material that may appeal to some in the community but not others. “We want to make sure that libraries protect the right to read.”
The controversy in Jamestown began with a complaint about memoirs by a non-binary writer, but soon turned into a campaign against the Patmos Library itself. After a parent complained about Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer: a Memoir, a graphic novel about the author’s experience appearing as a non-binary person, dozens appeared at library board meetings, demanding that the institution drop the book. (The book, which includes sexual images, was in the library’s adult section.) Complaints began targeting other books with LGBTQ+ themes.
One of the library directors resigned, telling Bridge that she had been harassed and accused of indoctrinating children; Behind her, Matt Lawrence, also left the job. Although the library placed Kobabe’s book behind the counter instead of on the shelves, volumes remained available.
“We, the board, are not going to ban the books,” Walton told The Associated Press on Thursday.
A few months later, in March, an anonymous letter went to homes in the area. She criticized the “pornographic” memoir and the addition of “transgender” and “gay” books to the library, according to Lawrence. “It got a lot of people excited and getting them to come to our board meetings to complain,” he said. “The public’s concern was that it would confuse the kids.”
The library’s refusal to comply with the demands led to a campaign that urged residents to vote against renewing funding for the library. A group calling itself Jamestown Conservatives distributed pamphlets denouncing gender for showing “highly graphic sexual illustrations of two people of the same sex”, criticizing a library manager who “promoted LGBTI ideology” and calling for the library to be a “safe and neutral place for our children”. on me Facebook, the group says It exists “to keep our children safe, to protect their purity, and also to keep the nuclear family intact as God designed it.”
Residents eventually voted 62% to 37% against a measure that would have raised property taxes by about $24 in order to fund the library, even as they agreed to similar measures to fund the fire department and road works. Mikola said the library was one of the few in the state to have suffered such a loss: “Most of them went through flying colours, sometimes as high as 80%.”
The vote came as a “shock” for Lawrence, who quit his job in part because of criticism by city officials of the Patmos bookstore and libraries across the United States.
“I knew there were people who were upset with the material in the library, but I thought enough people would realize that what they’re trying to do by removing these books is against our Constitution, particularly the First Amendment,” he said.
The vote comes as bookstores across the United States face an increase in demands to ban books. The American Library Association identified 729 challenges for “library, school, and university materials and services” last year, which Led to about 1,600 challenges or removals of individual books. That was from 273 books in the previous year It represents “the largest number of book ban attempts since we began compiling these lists 20 years ago,” ALA President Patricia Wong said in a press release.
“We are seeing what appears to be a campaign to remove books, particularly books on LGBTQIA topics and books on racism,” Deborah Caldwell Stone, chair of the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom, said. The Guardian newspaper last year. Among the books celebrated are Toni Morrison, Alison Bechdale and Abram X Kennedy.
“I’m not entirely sure what triggered the culture wars we’re seeing, but libraries are definitely on the front end,” Mikola said. In fact, as is the case throughout the United States Move to deny LGBTQ+ rightsthe ALA’s #1 “Most Challenging” book last year was Gender Queer.
“When you remove those books from the shelf or publicly challenge them in a community, what you say to any young man who recognizes this novel is, ‘We don’t want your story here,’” Cobabe said. The New York Times in May.
Mikola noted that each bookstore chooses its own collection, an intense process that involves keeping up with what’s new, listening to what’s needed, and “ditching” the rarely-borrowed selections.
“Our librarians are qualified. They have advanced degrees.” “We want to make sure that the people who are hired to do this work are trustworthy and credible, and they make sure that the entire community is represented within their library,” she said. And that means owning LGBTQ books.”
If community members oppose the inclusion of certain books, there are formal means of requesting their removal, including a review panel and ensuring that the person making the appeal has actually read the book in question. But lately, she said, people have been “attending board meetings, whether it’s a library board meeting or a school board meeting and saying, ‘This is a list of 300 books. We want to remove them all from your library. This is not the proper channel, but they are loud and their voices carry. “