Dalila Ali Rajah
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LGBTQ+ Books at the Center of Library Controversies in Michigan & Iowa

Library shelves.

After voters defunded their local library over the inclusion of LGBTQ+ books, residents of a small town in western Michigan helped raise almost nearly $115,000 to keep its doors open.

An initiative to renew tax funds for Hudsonville’s Patmos Library, which is located 20 miles east of Lake Michigan outside Grand Rapids, was rejected by Jamestown Township voters last week. Almost two-thirds of voters rejected the tax renewal, erasing 84 percent of the library’s annual budget, or $245,000.

It came from conservative residents’ anger over the library having Gender Queer: A Memoir by nonbinary author Maia Kobabe available to borrow.

An opposition group, the Jamestown Conservatives, baselessly accused the library of grooming children and demanded that more LGBTQ+ books be removed.

The library moved the book behind a counter to keep it out of children’s reach, but residents who had been calling for the book’s removal for months were unimpressed.

In response to the vote, Jamestown resident Jesse Dillman, a father of two, launched a GoFundMe page just two days after the vote to raise the full amount to keep the library open, NBC News reports.

Another ongoing battle over LGBTQ-inclusive books is happening in rural Iowa.

Kailee Coleman initially sought to educate tolerance when she penned and printed her children’s book And That’s Their Family. She explained to The Advocate that in the book, she writes about different family structures, including families of divorce, families with non-binary members, two moms and two dads, and others. 

She says that although she’s not a member of the LGBTQ+ community, it was vital for her to show that there are “all kinds of people and families out there” because she didn’t see herself represented in books as a child of divorce. 

“There’s absolutely nothing sexual about the book,” she said.

She says that her father, who is on the library board in the town of Logan, and others received a letter that demanded librarians not put “books that portray homosexuality and LGBTQ in a positive manner in the children’s section,” nor put them on display.

But the books, for now, will remain, according to local librarians, Omaha's ABC affiliate KETV reports.

“Diversity and inclusivity and representation are fundamental to my philosophy as a librarian,” Logan Library Director Kate Simmons told the outlet.

“The board members and I have all researched and read and reread and reread the ALA [American Library Association] documents,” Simmons said. “The reality is that libraries are in the forefront of the battle to protect the first amendment.” 

In November, the ALA condemned the nationwide move to censor books in libraries in a press release.

“We stand opposed to censorship and any effort to coerce belief, suppress opinion, or punish those whose expression does not conform to what is deemed orthodox in history, politics, or belief. The unfettered exchange of ideas is essential to the preservation of a free and democratic society,” the ALA wrote.

ALA President Lessa Kanani’opua Pelayo-Lozada told The Advocate in a statement that the attacks on some libraries threaten the communities they serve.

“The Patmos referendum is being discussed as entirely about a small fraction of a percentage of books in the library,” she said. “But what it’s really about is the community’s ability to have a library at all.”

For a locality, “a library... supports early literacy and homeschooling families, provides programming and cultural enrichment for all ages, offers devices and online connectivity, builds digital literacy, supports job seekers and small businesses, and offers a community gathering space for all to see themselves represented in the library," she explained.

Tags: News, Iowa, Michigan, Books

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