JAMESTOWN TWP. – The Patmos Library in Jamestown Township, south of Hudsonville, is in jeopardy after Tuesday’s failed library upgrade.
According to Larry Walton, president of the library’s board of trustees, a small group has protested outside the library’s doors and at board meetings about books on LGBTQ issues.
“We reported that we have about 90 materials out of 67,000 in our facility that could be LGBTQ related,” Walton said.
This is 0.001 percent of the library’s supply of books.
The library’s 2023 budget was heavily dependent on mileage. Walton said he now has to work to supplement roughly 85 percent of his budget, or $200,000, to stay open.
Cody Newhouse, who voted for the repeal, said even if the books are placed in the adult section of the library, children can still access them.
“The only thing that bothers me is the LGBTQ thing, especially with kids,” he said. “If you’re older, make your own decision, that’s perfectly fine. But for younger kids, I believe it should be kept away from them.
Library staff confirmed that they had removed one book that seemed to cause more controversy than the others. However, Walton said the board of trustees adheres to the Michigan Library Association’s code of ethics.
“We have to uphold First Amendment rights to free speech,” he said. “This also affects our decision-making. We cannot ban books. We cannot burn books.”
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The campaign failed with 1905 no votes to 1142 yes votes. If the allocation had passed, households would have paid an additional $10 to $15 per year.
“I think a library, by definition, has to have a wide variety of books,” said Pat Meyer, who voted for the millage. “It has to have books that make my blood boil, but I also think parents are a firewall.”
Meyer said she thinks it’s the parents’ job, not the library’s, to monitor what books get into their children’s hands.
“If some of the books that were repulsive to parents who could have kept them out of their children’s hands are the ones that close our library, that’s sad,” he said.
According to Walton, the controversy surrounding the books began in November. After that, the library’s director resigned after experiencing what he says was hate speech.
The library board can turn to the municipality for help in preparing the budget.
“We’re ready to decide what to do to keep the doors open for a period of time or partially,” Walton said.
If the library can’t replenish the money lost from Tuesday’s failed mill, Walton said, it will likely close next fall. Neighborhood libraries charge their patrons a membership fee, while the Jamestown Township library is free.