Michigan Library Defunded After Residents Falsey Call “Heartstopper,” Other LGBTQ+ Books ‘Pornography’
Having recently read the first four volumes of the YA graphic novel Heartstopper by Alise Oseman, I’d probably describe the books as “sweet, vulnerable, and warm.” This is something that the show manages to capture so well, by the way, while being a show targeted toward teens. However, a handful of Michiganders in Jamestown (township) see the inclusion of these books in the collection of the Patmos Library as the complete opposite and are citing these novels and four others as “pornography” that they believe shouldn’t be allowed in the public library.
The complaint started with the same book that’s spurred much of Chris “CRT” Rufo’s panic, and if you guessed it was the top book challenged in 2021, you’d be correct. Despite Maia Kobabe‘s YA graphic memoir Gender Queer being placed in the adult section, this local conservative group wasn’t content. They argued that Gender Queer and four other titles (this is where Heartstopper comes in) should not be allowed in the library because they fail to recognize “sex” isn’t just a verb and even when it is, that doesn’t mean something is pornographic.
Librarians driven out, and the first few failed attempts to get books removed
Dozens of people began to show up to board meetings demanding these books get removed. Some tried to veil their bigotry by saying the books’ content is okay for some but not in a family space. However, no one is making their kids read this book, and libraries aren’t just for Christian nuclear families. Librarians and the libraries’ board reviewed the claims and denied the requests on first amendment grounds. Larry Walton, the Library Board of Trustees President, told WOOD TV8 that these people have been protesting for months.
It isn’t just the books, though. Many were upset that queer people exist, period. After the library director, Amber McLain, came out, she resigned following a barrage of hate speech, accusations of pedophilia, and in-person harassment of staff from people looking for McLain. Some (claimed they) didn’t care that McLain was gay but took issue with the possibility that she wasn’t Christian. They came after her for the inclusion of LGBTQ+ books (regardless of placement in the library) and even for having Harry Potter available for kids because, apparently, it is still the 1990s. Since the town’s conservative group began targeting the Patmos library, a handful of other librarians have also resigned.
This story started to attract national and online attention ahead of a vote for increased tax funds (a “millage” equating to about $24 per home) to be used for the library. After failing to get 90 LGBTQ+ books completely removed from the library (which is almost all of the queer books and accounts for .001% of total collection), the group organized a three-month campaign to defund the library via the ballot.
The future of this library
Walton said most of the measures that invest in the community have 80%+ support. However, this one fell short at about 41%. The library only has funds through their first quarter in 2023 now because 85% of the budget comes from the millage. Walton noted that by cutting hours and other operations, the library could probably stay open a bit longer. Since then, a GoFundMe with donations big (from authors like Nora Roberts) and small have almost doubled the emergency money needed to double the life expectancy of the library.
This buys the library time until the fall 2023 millage, but without it passing in 2023, the library could shutter its doors forever and mean the loss of resources (books, wi-fi, classes, and more) to the entire community even beyond this town of 10,000. All because a town that voted 76% for Trump is rampant with bigotry and believes the first amendment only applies to certain people.
If you are a Jamestown resident, a ballot measure on Nov. 8 (the midterms) will offer an alternative method to fund the library long-term. For more info, visit SavePatmosLibrary.org.
(via CBS News, featured image: Alise Oseman)
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