JAMESTOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The fate of Patmos Library will be decided next Tuesday as a library millage goes up for a vote for the second time this year.
In August, the library millage failed with 1,905 no votes to 1,142 yes votes. There has been a growing controversy in this small, conservative community over the types of books available at the library.
“These are very challenging times for libraries in general and there is a huge increase in a number of materials that have been challenged,” said Carol Dawe of the Lakeland Library Cooperative, which covers 42 libraries in eight West Michigan counties, including Patmos.
According to Patmos Library’s Board of Trustees president Larry Walton, about 90 books out of 67,000 cater to the LGBTQ community. In Jamestown, lawn signs that accuse the library of promoting pornographic books and “grooming” young children sprinkle the town of about 10,000 residents.
“It’s only the LGBTQ stuff that bothers me, with my kids in particular,” Cody Newhouse told News 8 earlier this year. “If you’re older, make your own decision, that’s totally fine. But with the younger kids, I just believe it should be away from them.”
There have been several passionate library board meetings since the August millage failed. People from both sides of the issue continue to voice their concerns about the fate of Patmos Library.
The library’s 2023 budget is dependent on the millage passing. Roughly 85% of its budget, or $200,000, comes from the millage. The small-town library gained national attention, with famed author Nora Roberts donating $50,000 to keep it open.
Also up for a vote on Tuesday are three partial-term Board of Trustees seats. Ottawa County Clerk Justin Roebuck told News 8 that the township library has not been contested in the recent past. This year, seven candidates are vying for the three seats.
“As far as selection of materials, that is the responsibility of the library director and his or her staff,” Dawe said. “If there is a challenge or an appeal then it goes to the library board.”
The entire six-member board is on the ballot during presidential election years. In 2020, only three candidates ran, the other three spots were appointed after the election. Those are now the three seats up for a vote on Tuesday.
“The library board is in charge of the library director and the library director manages the library,” Dawe said.
Former Patmos librarian Matt Lawrence said it’s been difficult for Patmos to keep a director. The previous director resigned and during his term as interim director, he said he experienced both in-person and online targeted attacks.
“I think that the idea that the library was pushing pornography on children while it was more an accusation towards the organization as a whole, it was also an accusation towards the employees who make it up,” he said.
Only about 30% of Jamestown voters voted in the August primary. To date, there are 7,385 registered voters, up from 7,045 this past August.