Election 2022

Town defunds its own library again after conservatives said it supports “sinful desires”

books burning
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A town in western Michigan voted again to defund its local library after claims that it was “grooming” children by making LGBTQ books available.

Last Tuesday, 56% of Jamestown Township voters voted against a small property tax used to provide 80% of the funding to keep the local Patmos Library open.

“They are trying to groom our children to believe that it’s OK to have these sinful desires,” said Amanda Ensing, one of the people who campaigned against the library. “It’s not a political issue, it’s a Biblical issue.”

The library has been targeted by local conservatives all year for having LGBTQ books in its collection, including books like Spinning and Kiss Number 8. Both books have teen girl characters who discuss their feelings for other girls. Library officials said that the library has about 90 books with LGBTQ themes in its 67,000-book collection.

The library agreed to keep the most controversial book – asexual and nonbinary author Maia Kobabe’s memoir Gender Queer – behind the main desk so that people would have to ask a librarian to read it, but that wasn’t enough to satisfy the conservatives.

“Pray that we can make changes and make the Patmos Library a safe and neutral place for our children,” said a flyer from one of the local organizations, Jamestown Conservative, this summer.

Two library directors resigned as a result of the hateful messages they received from conservative residents.

The Patmos Library’s funding was on the ballot in the August primary elections, and voters rejected the tax used to pay for the library in that election.

“50% Millage INCREASE to GROOM our kids? Vote NO on Library!” one sign that was directly across the street from the library said, using the regional term “millage” to refer to the property tax.

The story made national headlines. The attention raised over $100,000 for the library in donations, which could cover part of its $245,000 yearly budget. But the library hoped to still get local citizens to pay for their library and put the tax question back on the ballot to ensure the library’s funding over the next decade.

“However, we know very clearly that what this library needs to remain open over the long term is to pass the 10-year levy renewal in November,” the library board wrote in a statement thanking donors for the outpouring of funding. “We cannot run the Patmos Public Library for the next decade without stable taxpayer support.”

“If the levy passes, we will remain a public library and use the donations to add to our capacities. If the levy fails, we will put these donations to work in the best way we can for as long as we can.”

After the township voted against the tax again, the library announced reduced hours due to “staff shortages” on their Facebook page.

Ensing, who called the issue “Biblical,” said that she didn’t even want the library to close. She just wanted the votes to be a “wake-up call” for the library’s directors.

“A wake-up call to what?” library board director Larry Walton asked. “To take LGBTQ books off the shelf and then they will give us money? What do you call that? Ransom? We stand behind the fact that our community is made up of a very diverse group of individuals, and we as a library cater to the diversity of our community.”

He added that the library provides many services to the community, including free wireless access to people who can’t afford internet access otherwise. Even the community room that was used for voting will have to be closed if the library is closed.

The tax in question is about $24 on houses with a market value of over $250,000.

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