US Library Loses Funding for Refusing to Ban Books

If you are planning a move to Michigan, be sure to thoroughly research what you are getting in to.  These people are serious about not wanting books about people who are different than themselves. And they will go to great lengths to make sure they stay insulated…The residents of Jamestown, Michigan, voted this week to shut down the town’s library rather than tolerate certain LGBTQ books. 

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Backstory

The controversy in Jamestown, Michigan began with an initial complaint about a memoir by a nonbinary writer, but it soon spiraled into a campaign against the entire Patmos Library itself. The public outrage began when a parent complained about Gender Queer: a Memoir, by Maia Kobabe, a graphic novel about the author’s experience coming out as nonbinary. This inspired dozens of other residents to show up at the library board meetings, demanding the institution drop the book. (The book, which includes depictions of sex, was in the adult section of the library.) And then complaints began to target other books with LGBTQ+ themes.

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“We, the [library] board, will not ban the books.”

The library refused to ban the books.  And the cost was high.  One library director resigned from the stress of the public campaign to ban books. That director had been harassed and accused of ‘indoctrinating’ children.  Next, the director’s successor also left the job.  But the public campaign to ban books continued–even after the library put Kobabe’s book behind the counter rather than on the shelves. Residents did not like the fact that the volumes remained available.

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The campaign to ban books heats up

The library’s refusal to submit to the demands led to a campaign urging residents to vote against renewed funding for the library.  A group calling itself “Jamestown Conservatives” handed out flyers condemning the library director personally, accusing the director of “promoting the LGBTQ ideology” and calling for making the library “a safe and neutral place for our children”.

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Residents demand to live in a bubble

The Jamestown, Michigan residents ultimately voted 62% to 37% against a measure that would have raised property taxes by $24 in order to fund the library.

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Part of a larger problem

The vote comes as libraries across the U.S. face a surge in demands to ban books. The American Library Association (ALA) identified 729 challenges to “library, school and university materials and services” last year, which led to about 1,600 challenges or removals of individual books. That was up from 273 books the year before and represents “the highest number of attempted book bans since we began compiling these lists 20 years ago”, according to the ALA president.

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“We’re seeing what appears to be a campaign to remove books, particularly books dealing with LGBTQIA themes and books dealing with racism.”   -Deborah Caldwell-Stone, head of the ALA’s office for intellectual freedom

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Celebrated books by Toni Morrison, Alison Bechdel and Ibram X Kendi are among those facing bans.

Library choices

Each library chooses its own collection–an intensive process that involves staying abreast of what’s new, listening to what’s being requested, and “weeding out” selections that are rarely on loan.

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“Our librarians are qualified. They have advanced degrees. We want to make sure that the people who have been hired to do this work are trusted and credible, and that they’re making sure that the full community is represented within their library. And that means having LGBTQ books.”   -Deborah Mikula, executive director of the Michigan Library Association

The momentum to ban books is building across the U.S.

According to the state library director, people have been “going to board meetings, whether it’s a library board meeting or a school board meeting and saying, ‘Here’s a list of 300 books. We want them all to be removed from your library.’ …they are loud and their voices carry.”

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