The news of the library’s impending closure inspired a response from people who support the LGBTQ community.
If you don’t like a TV show, change the channel. If you don’t like a song, change the radio station. If you don’t want to read a book, don’t read it. If you don’t want your children to do something, tell them what to avoid.
Makes sense, right? Not to the majority of voters in Jamestown Township in western Michigan. On August 3, they rejected a millage to fund their local library to protest its inclusion of LGBTQ-themed books. A millage is what some municipalities use to calculate property taxes.
The voters rejected the millage by 62% to 37%. The vote gutted the library's operating budget in 2023 by 84%. Larry Walton, the library board president, told Bridge Michigan that without the funding the library will close late next year.
The library became the center of controversy for carrying “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” in the adult graphic novel section. After protests, it was removed from the shelves and put behind the counter.
A review on publisher Simon and Schuster's website says that the book, written by Maia Kobabe, is “a great resource for those who identify as nonbinary or asexual as well as for those who know someone who identifies that way and wish to better understand."
But conservative activists in Jamestown Township accused the library of indoctrinating local children by having the book on the shelves. There were also complaints about a book called “Spinning” about a teen girl's attraction to other girls and “Kiss Number 8,” a graphic novel with similar LGBTQ themes.
“They are trying to groom our children to believe that it’s OK to have these sinful desires,” Amanda Ensing, a member of the group Jamestown Conservatives, said of library officials, Bridge Michigan reported. “It’s not a political issue, it’s a Biblical issue.”
If you don’t like the library's books, why not tell your kids not to go there? Problem solved.
Did the people who supported closing the library consider the fact that by closing it they weren’t just eliminating access to a few books on LGBTQ issues but countless topics and stories that they may support?
The news of the library’s impending closure inspired a backlash by people who support the LGBTQ community and reading. More than $90,000 has been raised through two GoFundMe campaigns.
Jamestown resident Jesse Dillman has raised $87,000 for the cause through his campaign that has a goal of $200,000, the amount needed to keep the library open for the good part of a year.
“The Patmos Library in Jamestown is a core part of the community fabric,” he wrote on his GoFundMe page. "I firmly believe most residents here don't share these views and desire to continue funding our local library. Funds raised here will be donated to the Patmos Library so that we can keep it open long enough to consolidate community support for our library millage."
Michelle Barrows has raised nearly $5,000 on her page.
“I was very disheartened that the majority of this community believes in defunding the library because it has books with subjects they don't like or understand,” Barrows wrote on her GoFundMe page. “If you don't like the book, don't check it out! Books don't make people gay. Books DO provide understanding, teach tolerance, and love of differences.”
"I hope you get to your goal, but it is a very very sad day when a public library has to get funded this way due to extreme views of a minority wishing to impose their will on others. Keep on reading!" GoFundMe donor Nancy Stryker wrote.
The people of Jamestown’s decision to punish themselves and their community by shutting down the library over a few books they disagree with is a sad display of irrational political and religious outrage. Banning books has a long history of being connected to oppressive political regimes and is antithetical to living in a society that values freedom of speech.
But it is heartening to see that people from across the world have stood up and donated money to help keep the library alive. Perhaps those who voted to shut it down will hand back their library cards.