Michigan library faces closure after voters reject millage over LGBTQ literature

Patmos Library in Michigan's Jamestown Township may face closure next year after voters rejected a millage renewal on Tuesday in protest of some graphic LGTBQ content in the library’s collection.

Voters defeated the millage by 62% to 37%, or 763 votes.

Bridge Michigan reported that 84% of the library’s $245,000 operating budget was derived from local property taxes, which would have cost each household about $24 annually.

At issue are a few LGBTQ books in the Patmos Library, including a graphic novel titled “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe, a writer using the eir pronoun. The book discusses the author’s gender fluidity and sexuality, and several panels feature graphic illustrations of sexual activity.

Some parents objected and created a Facebook page to garner opposition to the library millage vote.

A group calling itself The Jamestown Conservatives formed “to help others of the community to be aware of the pushed agenda of explicit sexual content that is being infiltrated into our local libraries aiming toward our children,” according to its Facebook page.

After seeing the millage results, Jamestown resident Jesse Dillman started a Gofundme account for the Patmos Library in 2023 that has raised more than $4,500 of its $245,000 goal.

Dillman said Patmos library is a “core part” of their community. He, his wife, and his kids frequent the library weekly to rent books and puzzles and attend free events such as dancing classes.

The library offers more than 67,000 books.

Dillman blamed small voter turnout and a coordinated movement via Facebook to swing the “no” vote. However, he maintains that most of the 10,000 residents support the library.

“I firmly believe the residents here in Jamestown want to fund the library,” Dillman told The Center Square in a phone interview. “It’s been a small vocal movement of people that are very upset about this, in my mind, perceived issue of [LGBTQ content]."

Millages were approved for the local fire department and road repairs.

James Lucas Jones, Oni Press’ head of publishing, supported Kobabe’s work.

“Oni Press supports Maia Kobabe for the truth and strength in sharing eir story, and hopes to be a home for others who want to share their own stories with the world,” Jones said in a statement. “The fact is, ‘Gender Queer’ is an important, timely piece of work that serves as an invaluable resource for not only those that identify as nonbinary or genderqueer, but for people looking to understand what that means. Limiting its availability is short-sighted and reactionary.”

Patmos Library Board President Larry Walton did not respond to an email from The Center Square seeking comment.

Emily Mitchell from Kobabe’s agency, Wernick & Pratt, also forwarded a response from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

It read, “While some might find the content objectionable, as is their right, there are undoubtedly students and parents in the school system who support and want access to ‘Gender Queer.’ Public schools and libraries have an obligation to support intellectual freedom and to meet the needs and interests of their entire community, including those who would like to read ‘Gender Queer.’ Parents can exercise the right to make decisions for their own children, but when they demand the removal of materials, they take that right away from others. Removing books such as ‘Gender Queer’ based on the view of a few violates the First Amendment rights of students, parents, and others in the community.”

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