Book selection

Residents raise nearly $100,000 for Michigan Library funded by LGBTQ books

Residents of a small West Michigan town helped raise nearly $100,000 for their local library after it was funded following the inclusion of LGBTQ books.

Primary voters in Jamestown Township, a community 20 miles east of Lake Michigan, last week rejected a proposal to renew tax funds to support the Patmos Library in nearby Hudsonville which serves Jamestown and its surroundings. The rejection, which passed with the approval of nearly two-thirds of voters, eliminates 84% ​​of the public library’s annual budget, or $245,000.

The library has been in the crosshairs of some Conservative residents since last November, when a small group of parents raised concerns about the availability of LGBTQ-related people, reported WOOD-TV, a local NBC affiliate in Grand Rapids, Michigan. While the library would have agreed to place some of the titles marked behind the loan deskthis was not enough to convince voters to continue funding the library.

Patmos Library in Hudsonville, Michigan.Google

Larry Walton, chair of the library’s board of trustees, told the local news site Michigan Bridge that he did not expect the loss of funds and that the library would probably run out of money by the end of next year without taxpayers’ money.

“The library is the center of the community,” he said. “For individuals to be myopic to shut this down on LGBTQ opposition is very disappointing.”

Walton did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment.

Two days after the vote, Jesse Dillman, a Jamestown resident and father of two, launched a fundraising online to help raise $245,000 to keep the library open.

“I’m very passionate about it and I have people behind me doing it,” he said in an interview. “I think I have to do it now, because the iron is hot. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen now.

By Thursday morning, about 1,800 people had donated more than $90,000. Although many of these donors are local, people from as far away as Australia have contributed, Dillman said.

One donor, Michigan Librarian Beth Pierson, wrote on the fundraising page, “I am saddened and scared by what I see across the country regarding attempts to limit freedom of access to information. Thank you for agreeing to do the right thing for the library on Patmos! »

Another donor, Georgia resident Shereen Mendelson, wrote, “People who ban books are never written well in history. You have my support from Georgia!

More support came from a second donation page set up by Michelle Barrows, also a Jamestown resident. Thursday morning she had raised nearly $5,000.

Efforts to end library funding can also be found on social media. In May, a private Facebook group called Jamestown Conservatives Was launched. The group, which had 158 members as of Thursday morning, says it was “created to help others in the community be aware of the pushing agenda of sexually explicit content infiltrating our local libraries aimed at our children”. The page also says it’s about “keeping our children safe” and “keeping the nuclear family intact as God intended.”

Page administrator Lauren Elyse did not respond to a request for comment.

The Jamestown controversy is part of a larger national debate over access to LGBTQ books in public libraries and schools. This debate has accelerated over the past year, with the American Library Association publishing a statement in November, warning of a “dramatic increase in book-related challenges and the outright removal of books from libraries”. The association said LGBTQ books and books by black authors were particularly targeted. In 2021, five of the 10 most contested and banned books in the United States were flagged for their LGBTQ content, according to the group’s annual 10 Most Contested Books list.

At a two-hour Patmos Library board meeting on Monday, residents spoke both for and against funding the library, WOOD-TV reported that most speakers were in favour.

Among the speakers was a former library employee.

“The purpose of a public library is to serve the public,” she said. “This includes everyone from all backgrounds, beliefs and interests. It means having material available from all viewpoints and topics, not just what some people are comfortable with. If you’re not agree with something, don’t check it. That’s the beauty of a library. You have the choice to come alone or with your family and make the selections that are best for you.

At the end of the meeting, council voted unanimously to place the funding issue on the city’s November ballot.

After Monday’s meeting, Dillman said he was optimistic about the library’s ability to recoup its funding. In addition to continuing his fundraising efforts, he said he has signed up to serve on an independent city committee to help secure taxpayer dollars for the library.

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