Last November, the local library of Jamestown Township, 20 miles outside of Lake Michigan was under fire by a small group of parents who were concerned about the inclusion of LGBTQ+ books in the library. The group was particularly concerned about the graphic novel “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe, a nonbinary and queer author and illustrator from California. The book was described by a starred review in the School Library Journal as “a great resource for those who identify as nonbinary or asexual as well as for those who know someone who identifies that way and wish to better understand.”
The library reportedly agreed to place a few of the flagged titles behind the circulation desk, but this was not enough to convince voters to continue to fund the library. Last week, primary voters voted against renewing the library’s funds, costing the library $245,000, 84% of the library’s annual budget. The final vote count was 1,124 for refunding the library and 1,905 against. If the budget was approved, it would have raised taxes about $24 a year.
Larry Walton, the library’s board president, is concerned the library will run out of money without the taxpayers’ money sometime next year.
“The library is the center of the community,” he said. “For individuals to be short-sighted to close that down over opposing LGBTQ is very disappointing.”
Two days after the vote, local resident Jesse Dillman started an online fundraiser to make up for the library’s lost funds. Walton teamed up with him on his efforts.
“I am very passionate about this, and I have people that are behind me to do this,” Dillman said in an interview. “I think I have to do it now, because the iron is hot. If this is going to happen, it’s going to happen now.”
Over 2,000 people have donated over $100,000, which brings them almost halfway to their goal of $245,000.
Dillman posted an update on the online fundraiser indicating that the library board has voted to push for a new vote in November, “hoping the attention and understanding of the situation will counter the misinformation (and anti-library campaign) that put the library in Jeopardy.” Dillman is also teaming up with a non-profit called EveryLibrary, which supports fundraising efforts of libraries but acting as a “Fiscal Agent” to ensure the donations will be used efficiently.