Public libraries becoming targets for collections that include LGBTQ+ books
A rural Michigan town defunding its library over books featuring LGBTQ+ themes is the next level of book bans.
Book bans are at their highest level, according to the American Library Association that marks Banned Books Week every year this month. From Sept. 18-24, we will mark a year where more than ever school districts are voting to remove books from campus libraries, lawsuits are being waged to remove books from public libraries and bookstores, and now those public libraries could lose community funding over a particular book.
Patmos Library in Hudsonville, Michigan, was facing closure in early August after voters rejected a measure to renew funding for the library. The vote was blamed on a campaign waged by conservative Christians who believe books associated with LGBTQ+ themes are “grooming” children to be pedophiles, a QAnon belief that has become a mainstream conservative theory, according to media reports.
Less than 1% of Patmos Library’s books have LGBTQ+ content, the nonprofit advocacy group Americans United for the Separation of Church and State found. Yet the library was defunded.
Most book bans seem to occur within school libraries since parents have more power to address their school districts to remove books they deem inappropriate for children to read. Of course, many of these books being targeted are by LGBTQ+ authors and authors of color who write about gender, sexuality, and race.
But more of these book bans are trickling inside public libraries where individuals are heading to their city councils and court systems to request books be removed from libraries and even bookstores.
A concerned Patmos Library patron started a GoFundMe that now has raised over $255,000, which is $10,000 over the goal to help the library continue operations throughout 2023. Renowned romance novelist Nora Roberts noticed the GoFundMe after reading The Washington Post story about the library’s defunding and donated $50,000, her publicist’s blog notes. The funds are from the author personally, and not from her foundation, the blog adds.
Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer: A Memoir is one of the books at issue. It’s also the most banned book in America. The author and cartoonist, who uses e/eir pronouns, discusses eir discovery of eir gender identity in the graphic novel. The book was also at the center of an obscenity matter in a Virginia court that is resolved for now (more on that below).
Though Patmos Library is located in a community with a population of just less than 10,000, the possibility that a library can be defunded over the books they choose to carry is concerning. The head librarian, who identified as queer, quit amid the defunding campaign after being harassed inside the library, BuzzFeed News reports, adding other librarians had also quit for similar reasons.
Now that the library received national support to keep going, hardships still lie ahead. The harassment may continue toward the librarians, another campaign to somehow rid the library of LGBTQ+ books may be planned, or people may stop using the library.
The library’s next board meeting takes place Sept. 12, so we will see what the library has in store under the spotlight glow. Though the money will be there, its location in a community that largely wants it gone over a few books is an ongoing concern.