A Michigan town has voted to fund its public library after a conservative backlash against LGBTQ2S+ graphic novels.
In a primary on Tuesday, Jamestown Township voters voted to reject a property tax that funds the Patmos Library by a 25-point margin, eliminating about 84% of the library’s budget, according to Michigan Bridge. Without the funding, board members say the library will likely run out of money next year.
Larry Walton, chair of the library’s board of trustees, said the closure was unexpected, despite earlier reactions. “The library is the center of the community,” said Walton Bridge, noting that the library served as a polling place for Tuesday’s primary and provides other community services, including WiFi for residents who don’t have it in their homes. “For individuals to be myopic to shut this down versus LGBTQ2S+ opposition is very disappointing.”
Locals first expressed concern about the books in the library’s collection earlier this year, with parents focusing mainly on Gender Queer: A Memoir, a graphic memoir by Maia Kobabe, which details the non-binary author’s coming of age. In 2021, the book was the most contested book in the United States, according to the American Library Association.
According Bridgesmall meetings of the city’s library board began attracting up to 50 attendees last spring, many of whom demanded the book be removed from the collection, despite being housed with the graphic novels for adults.
As the library eventually agreed to keep the book behind the counter, complaints started coming in about other queer graphic novels, including Tillie Walden Spinning and Colleen AF Venable Kiss number 8– though both would remain in place in the young adult graphic novel section.
Ahead of the August primary, some locals rallied to frustrate the funding renewal, handing out flyers in a Memorial Day parade that mentioned the book and targeted library directors who they said were “promoting the ‘LGBTQ2+ ideology’. As the complaints mounted, the library director and acting replacement director both resigned due to harassment. Former director Amber McLain, who is openly gay, Told Bridge in May that she had to change her name on Facebook, because she was inundated with angry messages.
“Libraries are for everyone, not just the majority,” McLain said. Bridge. “When I was director at Patmos, there were just under 67,000 pounds. Removing one might not seem like much, but when you consider that there are maybe 50 books with LGBT2S+ representation in those 67,000, everyone matters.
The incident mirrors a similar case at an Iowa library last month. The Vinton Public Library in Vinton, Iowa, closed in July after several administrators resigned due to criticism from conservatives about LGBTQ2S+ books, as well as LGBTQ2S+ employees, including an interim director. Initially hired as a children’s librarian two years ago, Colton Neely, who is openly gay, told the Monks Register it was rebuffed from the start. “I felt like no one was really giving me that support,” he said. While Vinton’s library has since reopened with limited hours, its future remains uncertain.
Bans targeting LGBTQ2S+ books in school districts and public libraries have increased in the United States alongside other forms of anti-LGBTQ2S+ legislation. But in the face of what many supporters call censorship, some libraries in places with greater public support have fought back. Earlier this year, the Brooklyn Public Library began offering free nationwide access to banned books for teens.
“We need these young adults to be able to learn more about the world, to learn to consider someone else’s point of view, and to learn to reconsider their own way of thinking about the world,” said Amy Mikel, director of customer experience for the library. Extra at the time. “When you restrict that access, you impact the trajectory of someone’s life.”