JAMESTOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The Patmos Library in Jamestown Township, south of Hudsonville, is in danger of closing following Tuesday’s failed library millage renewal.
According to Larry Walton, the library’s Board of Trustees president, a small group has protested outside of the library’s doors and during board meetings regarding books that cover LGBTQ issues.
“We’ve made it known that here at our facility, we have approximately 90 pieces of material that could be relative to LGBTQ out of a total of 67,000,” Walton said.
That’s .13% of the library’s book offerings.
The library’s 2023 budget was hugely dependent on the millage passing. Walton said it now has to work on supplementing roughly 85% of its budget, or $200,000, to stay open.
Cody Newhouse, who voted no for the millage, said that even if books are placed in the adult section of the library, kids are still able to access them.
“It’s only the LGBTQ stuff that bothers me, with my kids in particular,” he said. “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.”
Library staff confirmed they removed one book that seemed to stir up more controversy than others. Still, Walton said the Board of Trustees follows the Michigan Library Association’s code of ethics.
“We need to support First Amendment rights of freedom of speech,” he said. “That factors into our decision-making, too. We can’t have book bannings. We can’t have book burnings.”
The millage failed with 1,905 no votes to 1,142 yes votes. If the millage had passed, households would have paid an additional $10 to $15 per year.
“I think a library by definition has to have a wide range of books,” said Pat Meyer, who voted yes for the millage. “It has to have books that make my blood boil, but I also think that parents are the firewall.”
Meyer said she believes it’s parents’ job, not the library’s, to monitor which books get into their kids’ hands.
“If a few books that were objectionable to parents, who could have kept them out of the hands of their kids, if that’s what closes our library, that’s sad,” she said.
Walton said the controversy surrounding the books started in November. Since them, the library director quit after experiencing what he said was hate speech.
The library’s board may turn to the township for budgeting help.
“We’re up to the task to determine what to do to keep the doors open for a period of time or partially open,” Walton said.
If the library is not able to supplement money lost from Tuesday’s failed millage, Walton said it will most likely close next fall. Neighboring libraries charge membership fees to non-Lakeland Library Cooperative patrons, while the Jamestown Township library is free.
— Correction: It was previously reported that it was .001% of books, but it has been corrected to .13%