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US library repaid after refusing to censor LGBTQ authors: ‘We will not ban the books’ | Libraries

Written by Javed Iqbal

A small-town library is in danger of closing after residents of Jamestown, Michiganvoted to defund it instead of tolerating certain LGBTQ+ themed books.

Residents voted Tuesday to block a renewal of funds tied to property taxes, Bridge Michigan reported.

The vote leaves the library with funds through the first quarter of next year. Once a reserve fund is used up, it would be forced to close, Larry Walton, the library’s board president, told Bridge Michigan — hurting not only readers but the community as a whole. In addition to books, residents visit the library for its Wi-Fi, he said, and it houses the very room where the vote took place.

“Our libraries are places to read, places to gather, places to socialize, places to study, places to learn. I think they are the heart of any community,” Deborah Mikula, executive director of the Michigan Library Association, told the Guardian. So how can you lose it?”

“We are champions of access,” she added, including materials that may appeal to some in the community and not others. “We want to make sure libraries protect the right to read.”

The controversy in Jamestown began with a complaint about a memoir by a non-binary author, but it quickly evolved into a campaign against the library of Patmos itself. After a parent complained about Gender Queer: a Memoir by Maia Kobabe, a graphic novel about the author’s experience coming out as non-binary, dozens showed up at library board meetings demanding the institution drop the book. (The book, which includes depictions of sex, was in the adult section of the library.) Complainants began targeting other books with LGBTQ+ themes.

A library director resigned and told Bridge that she had been harassed and accused of indoctrinating children; her successor also left the job. Although the library put Kobabe’s book behind the counter instead of on the shelves, the volumes remained available.

“We, the board, are not going to ban the books,” Walton told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The library’s refusal to comply led to a campaign urging residents to vote against renewed funding for the library. A group calling itself the Jamestown Conservatives distributed flyers condemning a library director who “promotes LGBTQ ideology” and called for making the library “a safe and neutral place for our children.” On Facebook, says the group it exists to “keep our children safe and protect their purity, as well as to keep the nuclear family intact as God designed”.

Residents ultimately voted 62% to 37% against a measure that would have raised property taxes by about $24 to fund the library, though they approved similar measures to fund the fire department and road work. The library was one of just a few in the state to suffer such a loss, Mikula said: “Most passed with flying colors, sometimes up to 80%.”

The vote comes as libraries across the US face a surge in calls to ban books. The American Library Association last year identified 729 challenges to “library, school and university materials and services” that led to about 1,600 challenges or takedowns of the individual books. It was up from 273 books the year before and represents “the highest number of book ban attempts since we began compiling these lists 20 years ago,” ALA President Patricia Wong said in a press release.

“We are seeing what appears to be a campaign to remove books, particularly books that deal with LGBTQIA themes and books that deal with racism,” Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, told the Guardian last year. Famous books by Toni Morrison, Alison Bechdel and Ibram X Kendi are among those facing bans.

“I’m not exactly sure what led to the culture wars we’re seeing, but libraries are certainly on the front end,” Mikula said. In fact, like states all over the United States move to deny LGBTQ+ rightsALA’s No. 1 “most challenged” book last year was Gender Queer.

“​When you take those books off the shelf or you challenge them publicly in a community, what you’re saying to any young person who identified with that narrative is, ‘We don’t want your story here,'” Kobabe said. that New York Times in May.

Each library selects its own collection, Mikula noted, an intensive process that involves keeping abreast of what’s new, listening to what’s being requested and “weeding out” selections that are rarely on loan.

“Our librarians are qualified. They have advanced degrees,” she said. “We want to make sure that the people who have been hired to do this work are trusted and credible and that they make sure that the whole community is represented in their library. And that means having LGBTQ books. “

If members of the community object to the inclusion of certain books, there are formal means to request their removal, which involves a review committee and ascertains that the person appealing has actually read the book in question. But recently, she said, people “have been going to board meetings, whether it’s a library board meeting or a school board meeting, and saying, ‘Here’s a list of 300 books. We want them all removed from your library.’ And it’s not the right channel, but they’re loud and their voices carry.”

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Javed Iqbal

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