After uproar over LGBTQ books, Jamestown Twp. library board to try millage again in November

·5 min read

JAMESTOWN TWP. — Following a resounding failure of its operating millage renewal last week, the Jamestown Township library board voted Monday, Aug. 8, to ask voters to fund the library again in November.

This will mean a tight turnaround, as language to get on the November ballot is due to the Ottawa County clerk by next Tuesday.

Ottawa County residents wait for a library board meeting to start at Jamestown Township's Patmos Library Monday, Aug. 8, 2022.
Ottawa County residents wait for a library board meeting to start at Jamestown Township's Patmos Library Monday, Aug. 8, 2022.

The decision was made after a packed board meeting at the Patmos Library, 2445 Riley Street. More than 50 people attended the meeting, many of whom voiced their opinions on the library.

A conservative Christian group called Jamestown Conservatives placed large signs in the township urging residents to vote no on the millage, citing concerns the library was "grooming" children with books containing explicit material and LGBTQ themes.

According to library board President Larry Walton, out of 67,000 materials in circulation, approximately 90 "could be relative to LGBTQ." This accounts for 0.001 percent of the library's book offerings.

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.

More: National attention as Jamestown Township library millage fails over LGBTQ books

More: Jamestown Township votes down a 0.6-mill library millage renewal

Subscribe: Get unlimited access to our local coverage

Because the millage failed, the library will lose 84 percent of its funding next year. If the millage does not pass in the fall, the library will likely close.

Over two dozen citizens spoke at the Aug. 8 meeting, with more speakers in support of the library staying open than those who want it to close.

The exterior of the Patmos Library Friday, Aug. 5, 2022, in Jamestown Township. The future of the library is uncertain after the failure of the renewal of a property tax millage to fund the library after a campaign. The millage was voted down after a small conservative group campaigned against the millage after the library rejected removing LGBTQ materials from its shelves.
The exterior of the Patmos Library Friday, Aug. 5, 2022, in Jamestown Township. The future of the library is uncertain after the failure of the renewal of a property tax millage to fund the library after a campaign. The millage was voted down after a small conservative group campaigned against the millage after the library rejected removing LGBTQ materials from its shelves.

Michigan Library Association Executive Director Debbie Mikula attended the meeting, beginning public comment with support for the library and its staff.

"We are disheartened to learn funding for the library was defeated because the library would not remove LGBTQIA materials from their shelves," Mikula said. "Individuals have the right and responsibility to make decisions about what materials are right for themselves and their families but no one has the right to make decisions for other families."

"The Patmos millage was voted down due to extremist rhetoric and now there are consequences to the 'no' vote."

A GoFundMe fundraiser was created by Jamestown Township resident Jesse Dillman, who attended the meeting. The fundraiser has gotten over $65,000 in donations from all over the country since its creation last week. That amount, however, isn't nearly enough to make up for the money the millage would have promised the library.

Three Jamestown Township residents at the meeting said they voted no last week, but do not want the library to close. One woman said she was not aware her no vote would mean the library would shut down.

Other residents were clearer on their stance, saying they are offended by the library's offerings.

The Patmos Library in Jamestown Township, south of Hudsonville, is in danger of closing following Tuesday’s failed library millage renewal.
The Patmos Library in Jamestown Township, south of Hudsonville, is in danger of closing following Tuesday’s failed library millage renewal.

"Our tax dollars should never be spent by grooming children," said Jamestown Township resident Donna Rotman. "The content in some of the books contains graphic sexual dialogue and narratives. No child has an innate sense of being genderqueer or gender fluid. It is manipulative, destructive and wrong. A library that pushes this agenda is disrespectful."

The Hudsonville mother of a transgender child spoke during the meeting, saying she now homeschools her child because of the bullying he has received at school, which Jamestown Township children also attend.

"LGBTQ books make my child so happy to see himself represented in a book," said Sarah Wildey. "There is nothing wrong with people loving other people. I am a Christian and I am so sad for this community."

Jamestown Township resident and current Wayne State University medical student Connor Cook told The Sentinel early Monday that Patmos Library was the only place in his hometown he felt safe as a child.

"As someone growing up queer in Jamestown, that was not a fun time," Cook said. "We were homeschooled. (My parents) just enjoyed being able to control curriculum and that’s one of the reasons the library was so important, because it was somewhere they didn’t control."

Michigan Library Association Executive Director Debbie Mikula speaks in support of the Jamestown Township library during a board meeting Monday, Aug. 8, 2022.
Michigan Library Association Executive Director Debbie Mikula speaks in support of the Jamestown Township library during a board meeting Monday, Aug. 8, 2022.

For several summers as a teenager, Cook worked as an assistant to the children's librarian.

"There is nothing a gay kid loves more than hanging out with librarian grandmas for an entire summer," he said. "They were the five ladies who didn’t care if I was different or weird. That was just the biggest breath of fresh air.

"Being a queer kid means you spend your entire day knowing you don’t belong and knowing you aren’t wanted and there at the library, I knew I was wanted. It wasn’t even a question. It was just a baseline of acceptance and being valued for the first time.”

Though Cook is registered to vote in Jamestown Township, he did not vote last week. He said he thought the library millage was up for a vote in November, not August. He worries, though, what message the millage failure sends to queer children in his hometown.

"If the library closes down, it says to every queer child in Jamestown that we so violently do not want you to exist, we’re willing to shut down this public institution to let you know that," Cook said. "As queer kids, we’re taught the way to survive is to blend in. We do that under the understanding we can live our lives if we don’t take up too much space. And what we’re hearing today is that 0.001 percent is too much space. And that’s horrifying.”

— Contact editor Audra Gamble at audra.gamble@hollandsentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @Audra_Gamble.

This article originally appeared on The Holland Sentinel: After millage fails over LGBTQ books, Ottawa County library trying to stay open with another ballot attempt