Due to an issue over the availability of LGBTQ+ resources in a western Michigan public library, a dispute arose concerning the facility’s millage property tax renewal, leading to a great deal of uncertainty about how the library will continue to operate when the current millage dollars stop.
The Patmos Library's board president, Larry Walton, told the Associated Press that because voters passed no millage renewal in Tuesday’s primary election, the library would lose 84 percent of its $245,000 budget. The millage renewal failed with 1,905 people voting no and 1,142 people voting yes.
Conservative residents of Jamestown, Mich., opposed the renewal because they feared the library wouldn’t remove all LGBTQ+ materials, Walton told the AP.
“They’re protesting all LGBTQ books that are on our shelves,” Walton explained. He said they wanted to ban the books, “which is unacceptable.”
“We, the board, will not ban the books,” Walton told the news wire.
Most people who have expressed opposition to LGBTQ+ books in public libraries have said they oppose anything short of a complete ban on books relating to these communities because they believe they are unsuitable for children.
It is unlikely that children would be unable to access books even when they are placed in the library’s adult section, Cody Newhouse, who voted against the millage, told WOOD, Western Michigan's NBC affiliate.
“It’s only the LGBTQ stuff that bothers me, with my kids in particular,” Newhouse said. “If you’re older, make your own decision, that’s totally fine. But with the younger kids, I just believe it should be away from them.”
While there have been protests at public libraries in the state and even at school district board meetings over LGBTQ+ books, Bridge Michigan notes this might be the first time a library has been targeted by a community's vote that declared it wanted "to close its library rather than have it remain open with books some consider to be 'indoctrinating' children."
Leading up to Tuesday's vote, residents in the community urged voters against passing the millage increase. A homemade sign in a yard in the town read, “50 percent increase to GROOM our kids? Vote NO on Library!” according to Bridge Michigan.
A nonbinary local resident, Salem Sousley, said the sign "turns my stomach."
They told Bridge Michigan, “When I was growing up in Jenison [a nearby community], the language of who I was as a nonbinary person didn’t exist yet. When I read Gender Queer, it was the first time I ever saw myself represented in a book."
Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe was a catalyst for the community's protest.
"So many kids are struggling in silence, especially in areas like this,” Sousley added. “Having access to resources and materials of people who are sharing your experiences is literally life-saving.”
In Walton’s view, the board needs to look at its income and expenses to determine its plans, including the prospect of proposing a new millage.
“I am optimistic that we will work through the hurdle the conservative group has thrown our way,” he said.
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