Matthew Cantor “US library defunded after refusing to censor LGBTQ authors: ‘We will not ban the books’” https://www.theguardian.com/books/2022/aug/05/michigan-library-book-bans-lgbtq-authors
The controversy in Jamestown began with a complaint about a memoir by a nonbinary writer, but it soon spiraled into a campaign against Patmos Library itself. After a parent complained about Gender Queer: a Memoir, by Maia Kobabe, a graphic novel about the author’s experience coming out as nonbinary, 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.) Complaints began to target other books with LGBTQ+ themes.
One library director resigned, telling Bridge she had been harassed and accused of indoctrinating kids; her successor, Matt Lawrence, also left the job. Though the library put Kobabe’s book behind the counter rather than on the shelves, the volumes remained available.
“We, the board, will not ban the books,” Walton told Associated Press on Thursday.
A few months later, in March, an anonymous letter went to homes in the area. It criticized the “pornographic” memoir and the addition of “transgender” and “gay” books to the library, according to Lawrence. “That fired a lot of people up and got them to start coming to our board meetings to complain,” he said. “The concern from the public was that it’s going to confuse children.”
The library’s refusal to submit to the demands led to a campaign urging residents to vote against renewed funding for the library. A group calling itself Jamestown Conservatives handed out flyers condemning Gender Queer for showing “extremely graphic sexual illustrations of two people of the same gender”, criticizing a library director who “promoted the LGBTQ ideology” and calling for making the library “a safe and neutral place for our kids”. On Facebook, the group says it exists to “keep our children safe, and protect their purity, as well as to keep the nuclear family intact as God designed”.
The vote came as a “shock” to Lawrence, who left his job in part because of town officials’ criticism of the Patmos library and libraries across the US.
“I knew that there were people that were upset about material in the library, but I figured that enough people would realize that what they’re trying to do with the removal of these books is antithetical to our constitution, particularly the first amendment,” he said.
The vote comes as libraries across the US face a surge in demands to ban books. The American Library Association identified 729 challenges to “library, school and university materials and services” last year, which led to about 1,600 challenges or removals of individual books*2. That was up from 273 books the year before and represents “the highest number of attempted book bans since we began compiling these lists 20 years ago”, the ALA president, Patricia Wong, said in a press release.
“We’re seeing what appears to be a campaign to remove books, particularly books dealing with LGBTQIA themes and books dealing with racism,” Deborah Caldwell-Stone, head of the ALA’s office for intellectual freedom, told the Guardian last year. Celebrated books by Toni Morrison, Alison Bechdel and Ibram X Kendi are among those facing bans*3.
“I’m not quite sure what instigated the culture wars that we’re seeing, but libraries are certainly at the front end,” Mikula said. Indeed, as states across the US move to deny LGBTQ+ rights, the ALA’s No 1 “most challenged” book last year was Gender Queer.
Ron French “Upset over LGBTQ books, a Michigan town defunds its library in tax vote” https://www.bridgemi.com/michigan-government/upset-over-lgbtq-books-michigan-town-defunds-its-library-tax-vote
*2:American Library Association “ https://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/top10
*3:Alison Flood “US libraries report spike in organised attempts to ban books in schools” https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/nov/25/us-libraries-report-spike-in-organised-attempts-to-ban-books-in-schools